How Cooking Helps Children Learn

From reading to math and everything in between, adults apply a variety of skills to achieve success in the kitchen. With a little guidance, our children can benefit from practicing these skills with us. The following list of suggested tips and activities will assist you in helping your child transfer this “recipe for success” from the kitchen to the classroom!


  • Cookbooks and recipes provide opportunities to practice sequencing and following directions, two items that figure prominently in standardized tests.
  • Your child can develop oral fluency by reading recipes aloud to you.
  • Have your child restate (in his own words) one or more steps in a recipe. This will give him practice with recollecting details and paraphrasing, skills needed for reading comprehension.


  • Dictate a shopping list to your child. If he does not know how to spell a word, encourage him to approximate; that is, have him use his phonetic skills to sound out the letters that he does know, and make a reasonable guess of the others. Not only will this help him practice what he knows, it might also clue you in to any areas he needs help with.
  • Your child can reinforce his dictionary skills by organizing the spices in alphabetical order.


  • While waiting for your dish to bake, your child can write the recipe using words and/or pictures. This will strengthen his ability to plan and write in a logical order.
  • Have your child help you write a menu.


  • Discuss fractions as you bake a pizza, cake, or pie. Cut it into halves, quarters, and eighths.
  • Younger children can make patterns with fruit or vegetables on skewers.
  • Sort silverware and categorize pantry items to hone observation and classification skills.
  • Prepare your child for a deeper understanding of arrays, multiplication, and division with cookies. Arrange one dozen in groups of 3, 4, and 6.
  • Elapsed time is a difficult concept for many children to master. As you set the timer or check on a dish’s cooking time, talk about how long it has cooked or how much longer it needs to cook.
  • A child can never have too much practice measuring, and the kitchen is the perfect place to use a variety of measuring tools.

Social Studies

  • Cooking together is a good way to practice cooperating with someone else on a project.
  • Oftentimes there is a bit of history or cultural lore to be told in conjunction with various food ingredients. Most fruits, for instance, start in one part of the world and are then brought to other locations by explorers or other travelers.
  • The sequencing that a child practices by retelling a recipe in the correct order will help him understand timelines.


  • Cooking is a treasure trove of chemical reactions! For instance, discuss how baking powder makes biscuits rise (the acids in the baking powder react with the liquid in the recipe to make gas bubbles, and then the heat of the oven makes the bubbles get bigger, which makes the biscuits rise).
  • Children can clarify their understanding of cause-and-effect by observing relationships in cooking. For instance, explain how popcorn pops (heat turns moisture in the popcorn kernel to steam, which expands with such force that it explodes the shell, resulting in white, fluffy popcorn).
  • In advanced science classes, part of the curriculum focuses on proper safety in the science lab. Many of these practices are the same as those used in the kitchen.
  • Washing hands before handling food, or after handling poultry, can launch a valuable discussion of microscopic organisms.
  • Make goop made famous by Dr. Seuss’s book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Mix ¼ cup white glue, ¼ cup water, and a few drops of green food coloring. In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of borax into 2 cups of warm water, stirring until dissolved. Mix ¼ cup of the borax liquid into the green mixture. As you play with the goop together, discuss its physical properties. Is it a solid or a liquid?

Next time you’re tempted to send your child into the living room to watch a television program so that you can prepare dinner, give some thought to the many ways cooking helps children learn. You might decide to invite your child into the coolest classroom of all – the kitchen!



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