One thing I’ve been trying to incorporate more of into my preschool program is allowing opportunities for my preschoolers to cook. While cooking with preschoolers can be a little chaotic, it really need not be. With just a few tips and rules, allowing preschoolers to help in the kitchen can be an awesome learning experience.
Recently in preschool we made applesauce bread together. I found this recipe by Lovely Little Kitchen and it is perfect for young hands. It doesn’t require a mixer or beaters, which means that every step is done by hand, making it really, really hands on for my students.
I have seven preschoolers in my class, eight if you include Kent (19 months) which we often do because he loves feeling like a big boy and being part of the preschool group. Eight kids helping to make some bread can be difficult. I always hear lots of “Do I get a turn?” and “When is it my turn?” and “I want to lick it. Can I lick it?” and “No, it’s my turn now,” and so on.
I handle the need and concern for turn taking very simply, yet very seriously. After all, having a turn is a big deal when you’re only three, so of course my students will be asking about theirs. Before we begin, and often times during our cooking activities, I tell me students that while not everyone will have a turn at the exact same thing, everyone will get lots and lots of turns to help out.
This does not eliminate all pouting, but then I tell my worried student that I have a very special job coming up, that is just for them, like measuring a specific ingredient. Other jobs, like stirring and mixing, allows for every student to have a turn.
Here Corinne is smelling the cinnamon. I encourage the students to smell each ingredient as we go. Some will have the background knowledge and experience to relate the smell to a food item they eat frequently.
The following are some of our favorite books about apples and baking with apples.
Also notice that Corinne has changed her clothing. That’s because I believe in giving the students as much control over the cooking process as possible. This includes things like cracking eggs. Corinne warned me she didn’t know how to crack eggs, but I encouraged her to try anyway. As it would turn out, Corinne is like Hercules when it comes to cracking eggs. She smashed it all over herself and the table, and then in an effort to clean it up she knocked over the bowl with the other eggs in it, tossing them to the floor as well. It was a big, sticky mess, but if I went back in time I wouldn’t change it. One of the best things I can offer my preschoolers are opportunities to try something new, or to try something they are not very good at.
Cooking with preschoolers requires a huge amount of time and patience. This applesauce bread recipe would have taken me only a matter of minutes to whip up, but it took over an hour with my preschoolers. And that is ok! The sensory experiences they gained (not to mention science, vocabulary, and math) was well worth tweaking our regular schedule to spend some time in the kitchen.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.