ARCHIVED—Exemplary Practices 2008
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Cooking at Pre-School
"Cooking involves adult learning and it promotes socialization, a feeling of pride and accomplishment. It also relates to pre-math, pre-science and reading," says Terri Calder of Foothills Alliance Pre-school in Calgary of her cooking program.
Cooking is fun, nutritious and educational. All of the ingredients are pre-measured and the containers are numbered so children can read the numbers and follow the right sequence for the recipe. To make it easier to follow along, Calder creates a picture recipe with simple instructions that encourages literacy and math through measuring out the ingredients.
She found all of the images easily on the Internet using Google Image. They go through each recipe together first as a group then each table group does it on their own. The children take responsibility for making the recipe themselves.
Safety is carefully monitored to ensure all recipes are safe for children with food allergies. She checks all the ingredients with parents of these children beforehand. Utensils like plastic knives with serrated edges are used to "cut food not fingers". Scissors are used for cutting some ingredients such as celery. It develops fine motor skills as well as working faster. "One snip and it's done", Calder says.
Cooking together also promotes cultural understanding and community involvement. "We have a high percentage of Oriental children so we try to incorporate culture into cooking," Calder says. On the Chinese New Year, they cooked fried rice, and some of the grandmothers came in with dumplings and spring rolls. They ate using chopsticks. The children also wear traditional costumes during theme days.
Calder recommends starting with simple recipes like making trail mix (ensuring it is nut-free) and scrambled eggs before trying more complicated foods. It's important that all kids have the chance to participate. "They all get to dump something in," she says.