Chapter 16: What’s Cookin’ in the Kitchen?

Chapter 16: What’s Cookin’ in the Kitchen?

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It’s not “work” if it’s fun!

Kids who are struggling in school can develop a phobia of anything they consider “school work.” That’s very natural. When something doesn’t feel good, kids avoid it. They don’t want to be hurt. They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to be bored.

One great way to sneak in some “school work” without your child even knowing it is to simply have a fun day in the kitchen. All the fun stuff that can happen in the kitchen is a great way to cancel out the “reading is just more schoolwork” argument that some kids use as a reason to avoid it. The kitchen is simply a great place for kids to have fun and to read at the same time.

What’s cookin’?

Kitchens are for cooking, and most kids love to cook. Especially if they get to eat the yummy results of their labor when they’re done. How do you make cooking into a reading exercise? Simple. Take a “hands off” approach. Give your child an age-appropriate recipe and let him read it and follow the steps involved all by himself. You only need to stand by to help with tricky words and with any steps in the recipe that require adult supervision – using knives, microwaves and stove tops, for instance. Other than that, let your child take the lead. Simply having free run of the kitchen will motivate even the most reluctant of readers.

Here is a simple, child-sized recipe to get your budding chef started:

Peanut Butter Fruit Dippers

Tools you will need:

A mixing bowl

A mixing spoon

Measuring spoons


A plate

Ingredients you will need:

1 five-ounce container vanilla yogurt

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 apple

1 banana

1 pear

Now follow these steps:

Pour the yogurt into the bowl. Measure the peanut butter and the honey into the same bowl. Add the cinnamon. Stir all of these things together until they are well mixed and look smooth. This is your dipping sauce!

Now, ask a grown up to help you cut the fruit into two-inch cubes. Put a toothpick into each piece of fruit and arrange them on a plate. To enjoy your treat, just pick up a piece of fruit using the toothpick, dip it into the sauce and pop it into your mouth!

Bring on the books!

Once your child is hooked on cooking, bring on the books! There are hundreds of really great cookbooks out there at nearly every reading level. If new books don’t quite fit into your budget, there will likely be dozens to choose from at your local library.

Cookbooks designed especially for children are best. All the steps in the recipe will be clearly spelled out, and the reading level and vocabulary will be kid friendly. Here are a few good ones:

  • A First Cookbook for Children by Evelyne Johnson – This great little cookbook starts with the basics. It guides kids through the use of kitchen equipment and ingredients before moving onto recipes like Carrot and Raisin Salad, Mini-Pizzas and Chocolate Cake.
  • Little Cooks by Erin and Tatum Quon – This cookbook has recipes for breakfasts, snacks and dinners divided into sections with fun, descriptive names like “Rise and Shine” and “Sweets.”
  • One World Kids Cookbook by Sean Mendez – This cookbook not only offers recipes for healthy and affordable family meals, it gathers those recipes from cooking traditions around the world. The directions for each dish are accompanied by photos of children from those exotic places actually making the recipe.

Budding Picassos!

Eatables are not the only things cooking in the kitchen. The kitchen is also a great place for art projects. And it’s not just about spreading out on the kitchen table. The same shelves that have all those wonderful, tasty ingredients for recipes and meals hold the ingredients needed to make some really cool art projects as well. Here’s one!

Homemade Clay Dough

Tools you will need:

A mixing bowl

Some toothpicks

A mixing spoon

Ingredients you will need:

4 ½ cups white flour

1 cup salt

2 tablespoons alum

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 cups cold water

Food coloring

Now follow these steps:

Put the flour, salt and alum in the mixing bowl. Stir them together with the spoon. Add the oil and water and stir again. Use your hands to squish the mixture together until it is smooth. When your dough is soft and has no lumps, divide it into three or four big blobs. Now, using the toothpicks, drop a few drops of food coloring onto each blob. Choose a different color for each one. With your hands, mix in the coloring. Now, let your imagination run wild. What fun creations can you make with your dough?

You can keep your dough in the refrigerator in a covered container and it will last for a week or so. Or, you can leave your artistic creations out on the table to dry. They will turn hard in a day or two, and you will have a permanent piece of art to enjoy or give as a gift.

Mad lab

Kids love to experiment. It’s actually how they learn about the world around them. Why not let your child turn your kitchen into a mini science lab? You’ll be tapping into his natural need to learn by exploring, and you’ll be throwing in some reading practice as well.

Here’s a fun experiment to try. It answers the seemingly simple question, “Is water stronger than gravity?” Your child might be surprised by the answer. Parents, remember to supervise!

Water vs Gravity

You will need:

A tall glass with a stem (like a wine glass)

A cloth handkerchief

A pitcher of water

Now follow these steps

Put the glass on a table and cover it with the handkerchief. Push the handkerchief down into the glass a little bit. Fill the glass about three-quarters full by pouring the water carefully through the handkerchief. Did you notice that it pours right through?

Here’s the tricky part. Pull the handkerchief tight across the top of the glass. Hold onto it by pulling it down around the glass’s stem and keeping it there with your hand. Put your other hand across the top of the glass. Try to cover the opening completely. With an adult’s help, hold the glass over a sink without moving either of your hands. Now, very slowly turn it upside-down and carefully move the hand that’s across the top of the glass away – not the one around the stem! What happens? Pretty cool, huh? Now you can answer the question, “Which is stronger, water or gravity?”

Make a fun file!

You can use 3 X 5 cards in a recipe file to create your child’s own Kitchen-Fun Activity Collection. Divide the file into three categories: Fun Foods, Arts and Crafts, and Mad Science. Don’t be too worried about how many cards are in the file – a few in each category is all you’ll need to get started. Your child will probably quickly pick a few favorites and want to do them more than once, reading the card through each time. That’s fine. Kids love to do fun things over and over again. Experiments, art projects and recipes are especially fun to repeat. And, if your child is a struggling reader, reading the same card more than once is a great way to practice and gain confidence.