4 Ideas To Turn Your Kitchen Into A Classroom During Virtual Schooling

by Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: May 6, 2020

Pulling your hair out trying to keep your kids out of trouble, home-schooled, and fed during this time at home? It’s time to get them in the kitchen classroom! Learning to cook is one of the most practical life lessons you can teach your child, not to mention a great way to make family memories. Lunch time just became the learning lab, and you just got yourself a sous chef.

Why Learn to Cook? Teaching kids how to cook sets them up to create healthy habits for life. Involving children in meal preparation can increase their vegetable intake in a few ways: (1) helping them to be more adventurous with food, (2) giving them a sense of accomplishment and confidence, and (3) sparking their natural creativity. Learning to cook is a hands-on math, science, and reading lesson. If homeschooling is a challenge, you will be a hero for making learning fun and interactive by incorporating food into the lesson. The skillset of a cook demonstrates the ability to follow directions, develop and use of fine motor skills, and apply both attention and focus. Don’t forget, cooking also naturally enforces valuable life lessons such as healthy eating, hygiene (hand washing and clean up), and of course, being able to prepare meals for one’s self.Food is at the center of our memories. Cooking with your kids also helps you bond, and can be nostalgic. Making meals together generates quality time spent together boosting morale and overall mood.

Here are four ideas to help your kids get started in the kitchen while they’re learning at home:
  1. Make kids part of the planning.
    Start involving your kids in meal planning and grocery shopping. Ask them what they want to eat, or give them a few ingredients you have on hand and see if they can come up with a meal that includes those items. Let them help make a grocery list putting appropriate foods in categories such as fresh produce, pantry, meat, frozen foods, etc. By involving kids in this process, they will be more likely to try new foods, get creative, and feel accomplished.
  2. Take the time to teach about safety.
    Before doing anything with kids in the kitchen, go over safety rules. Each parent may have specific rules they want to include, but basic rules to start with are: (1) proper hand washing, (2) appropriate kitchen attire (pull long hair back, non-slip shoes) (3) using potholders for hot items, (4) knife safety (look for nylon knife sets designed for kids), and (5) listening to the adult proving the instructions.
  3. Assign age-appropriate tasks.
    • 3-5 years old: Kids this age love to help in the kitchen. Give them task such as using cookie cutters, rinsing produce with water, stirring ingredients in a bowl, and clearing tabletops.
    • 6-7 years old: This age can handle more complex tasks such as cracking eggs into a bowl, using a vegetable peeler, and preparing lettuce for a salad.
    • 8-9 years old: The skills related to this age group vary widely. Customize tasks according to your children’s maturity level. Some examples of appropriate tasks are using a can opener, measure and mix dry ingredients, and juice citrus fruits.
    • 10-12 years old: Preteens want more independence. Give them more responsibility by letting them boil pasta and vegetables, slice and chop vegetables, and simmer ingredients on the stove. Check out this list for more age appropriate kitchen tasks.
  4. Begin with kid-friendly recipes.
    Try adding vegetables to kid friendly foods like pizza, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti. By starting with food you already know they like, they will be more likely to try it (with additions). Another great strategy is to make it mini! Kids love bite-sized food because it’s easy to eat, and is extra fun. Try meatloaf in a muffin pan or mini pizzas using tortillas or even rice cakes. Lastly, choose recipes with few ingredients like this Kid Friendly Green Smoothie and Kid Friendly Smoothie Bowl.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Teaching people about the positive things that food can do for the mind, body and spirit, and helping them understand that all foods can fit into a healthy diet is Lisa’s nutrition philosophy. She believes food should be exciting and fun! Lisa encourages celebration of non-scale victories, which focus on what good nutrition can do for your life beyond weight. She loves food, but also loves to break a sweat whether it’s cycling, walking her dog or doing CrossFit.