As soon as our children are walking and in the toddler one room, it is time to experience cooking.
We believe in providing even our youngest children with this experience so that they can become familiar with baking and cooking at an early age. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on several principals. We view the children as capable individuals that are prepared to learn. They are curious and all have potential. With that in mind, we believe in providing our one year olds with the same opportunities that our older children have. By the time they are 4 and 5 they will be masters at these skills, and it will allow us to provide them with even greater cooking opportunities.
The children become familiar with ingredients, utensils for cooking, and begin to understand where food comes from and how it is made. Cooking strengthens math and literacy, fine motor skills, builds confidence, and helps them develop healthy eating habits.
We have two organic gardens in our playground, and whenever possible, we take the children out to the gardens to gather fresh ingredients. They are the ones who handle the ingredients and prepare the dish from start to finish. Of course we are there to supervise and some times we have to make a “clean” second dish due to “some curiosity” that occurred during the project, lol. But in the end, the children are able to engage in a cooking project that usually turns into sensory play in some way! ;0)
On this particular day, we made monkey bread. First, we brought out the dishes and utensils and allowed the children to become familiar with them. They listened to the teachers talk about what they were, as well as hear about what color or how many we were using…….
As soon as they saw the bag of sugar, they were ready to see what was inside the bag.
Out came the sugar, and their little hands could not wait to get a hold of some. Each child had different utensils – a whisk, a spoon, etc. Each one was trying to make sense of how to use the utensils with the sugar……..
He found some sugar on the table, and this captured his attention for the next few minutes. He felt it, noticed the marks his fingers made on the table, and tried so hard to scratch some up in his little hands….
Lucky for him, his friend saw he was enjoying the sugar on the table, so she continued to dig her hand down in the sugar and pour some on the table for him! Isn’t she thoughtful ;0) Lucky for “R”, every time the sugar went on the floor, she was right there to pour some more on the table for him.
She began to focus on what she could fit inside the measuring cup. It wasn’t the sugar she wanted in there, but everything else ;0) Particularly this piece of paper….
More ingredients began to come out, the smell of cinnamon and sugar began to fill the room.
But on the other corner of the table, “sugar play” was still going on. “A” was making sure her friend still had plenty of sugar to play with.
As we began to measure our ingredients, the boys touched each one to feel the different textures in their hands.
The table was starting to look like a side dish ;0)
“D” followed Ms. Carla’s instructions on the table instead of in the bowl, lol
“A” took time to taste everything. And he approved of the ingredients ;0)
Over on the side of the table we noticed that our other friend, was watching with reservation. He could not believe what he was seeing. New materials, and what was everyone doing with them???
Still not so sure of what is going on, we just let him sit back and watch the show. No pressure, if and when he was ready, he would be welcome to join in. ;0)
As we continued, the “table art” became the favorite thing to do with “A” and “D”‘s ingredients they were putting on the table. The children began running their fingers through the cinnamon and sugar mixture, enjoying the sensory play and watching the marks they were making on the table.
“A” then showed “N” that he could do something else with the bowl, (don’t worry, we wash dishes, hands, and what ever else we have to throughout the project, lol)
Thanks to “D” we had a new pallet to work with, and an even stronger smell…………..
“N” soon understood what he was “supposed” to do, according to his classmates. He dug right in……..
And he was hooked! Cinnamon was his favorite! We could not keep him away from it!
And on the other side of the table, “sugar lips” could care less about the cinnamon. He was sticking to sugar………..
We gave the children time to enjoy the cinnamon and sugar. They deserve time to experience the ingredients. How else will they if we do not let them smell it, touch it, and taste it?
When they were ready, we jumped back into stirring and mixing.
But some of us went back to the cinnamon……….
“A” liked measuring with the measuring spoons, and continued to do so with the ingredients in the bowl.
We brought out the biscuits, and the children helped Ms. Carla open them.
We placed them on the table and began to count them…….
“OOOOOOO” said “A”! He LOVED the biscuits, he showed them to everybody!
This is probably their first encounter with biscuits out of a can, and they were fascinated by them. Especially little “R”…….
“H” finally decided to join in, and she took the plastic knife and helped Ms. Carla cut the biscuits. The rest of the children saw her and followed her lead.
Again, “A” was so impressed with the biscuit dough, lol! He kept his OOOOO’s and AAAHHH’s going making sure to show off the dough to every one….
She LOVED the dough too! But she found that she could manipulate it like play dough, and took that route instead. We actually wound up giving each child their own piece of dough to explore.
His oo’s and ahh’s turned into grunts and he tried SO hard to cut his dough. Look at his face and the force his is using! He is a serious cook ;0)
We enjoyed providing the children with this experience. In the end all of the biscuits were coated with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, and baked in the oven. It was delicious, each child enjoyed the food as well as the process of making it.
Not only did they get to make and taste a new dish, but they were able to experience learning in a multi sensory way.