Cooking in Early Childhood

By Dana, an Ebenezer Curriculum Specialist at our Wauwatosa Child Care Center

cooking 2Cooking is not only a fun, engaging activity for children and used as an important teaching and development tool for all ages. You may remember a time when you helped a relative prepare a meal which evoked feelings of warmth, closeness, and the joy of working together.   Perhaps you have even done cooking with your own child.  Cooking with your child can be a wonderful bonding opportunity while learning many things through experiences with food.

Children learn by touching, tasting, seeing, feeling, and listening. Cooking activities are ideal for children because all their senses are stimulated.  When a child’s senses are engaged as they are during cooking experiences, learning becomes meaningful and memorable.  Through experiences with food, young children can successfully learn the concept of eating a variety of foods.

Cooking to Promote Development and Learning

Social-Emotional Development – Hands-on cooking activities help children develop pride and confidence in their skills and abilities. It can encourage independence, while also teaching children to follow directions and use thinking skills to problem solve.

cooking 3Physical Development – Chopping, squeezing, spreading, and mixing are all cooking skills that help develop a child’s small muscle control and eye-hand 4

Cognitive Development – Cooking inspires children’s curiosity, thinking, and problem solving, offering new opportunities to make predictions and observations. Additionally, cooking offers real opportunities for students to understand and apply their knowledge of measuring, one-to-one correspondence, numbers, and counting.

Language Development – Because cooking has its own vocabulary, cooking is a great opportunity for language development.

Art – From making a face out of vegetables on a pizza to decorating cookies, cooking activities provide endless opportunities for creativity and imagination!



Cultural awareness – Introducing young children to ethnic dishes may encourage them to learn more about the culture and people that inspired the dish.

Cooking activities are both educational and highly motivating to children.  As early care educators, we foster each child’s independence and encourage the exploration of the culinary arts, igniting a sense of accomplishment to push boundaries while we work together to create yummy results. Let’s eat!