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Cooking Activity for Kids
One of the most important things we do together as families, especially around the holidays, is make and enjoy feasts. From an early age, the spices and foods we share are encoded in memory and are part of our family identity. In this activity, explorers draw inspiration from A Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell, a marvelous book about a family shopping for, cooking and eating food together. Inspired by the rhythmic language and familiar context, kids will “shop” in their nature grocery and mix, swirl and experiment to “cook” their own nature feast!
- Discuss: Start by asking, “What are some important things that we as a family do together?” Tell them that one thing you love doing with them is cooking and eating together. Say, “We are going to read one of my favorite stories about something that families, even big families, do together.”
- Read: Read A Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell. As you read, ask your kids, “Do we eat together? What holiday is coming up? What does our family do to celebrate Thanksgiving?” Talk to them about what your family likes to eat, especially during Thanksgiving. If that’s too hard for your wee one to answer, ask what they like to eat. Tell them that you want to do some nature cooking with them, and pretend to cook those foods they love.
- Go shopping: Hand out buckets and help explorers “shop” for nature ingredients. These could be acorns, grass, rocks, fallen leaves, and more!
- Cook: Invite your wee ones to “cook” with the nature treasures they collected. You can give them buckets, pots, pie tins, or anything else you don’t mind getting dirty. Add some water and dirt into the mix along with the nature ingredients they collected. You can even construct an outdoor kitchen.
- Spice it up: Bring out spices that your family uses often when cooking. Talk with your wee ones about what the spices are called, and why they are important to your family. Offer them to kids to sprinkle or add special flair to their dishes. You can also invite them to experiment mixing spices with water.
- Set the table and enjoy a feast: Pull out an old sheet table cloth, mason jars for a centerpiece of fallen treasures—anything to make your feast a celebration. Then pretend to smell, taste and savor your delectable delights.
Why is this activity great for kids?
This activity is magic on several levels. When families talk together about something as near and dear to them as the foods they love to eat or make, kids get to learn more and connect with their cultural roots. If you are able, invite friends to play, and help your child see and celebrate the value and diversity of traditions we have in our culture. Mixing, stirring, sloshing and mashing nature treasures, making mud, or arranging objects to make a holiday feast is all satisfying work that is tremendous sensory development for kids of all ages.
Food and cooking are play contexts that are both common and yet open-ended, which means that children of different ages can play together and still challenge themselves and one another in appropriate ways. The simple act of pretending that one object (e.g. grass) stands for another (e.g. carrots) is an age-appropriate way to develop imagination and the capacity to make believe. Older kids will also build more pretending into the activity, thinking more carefully about the family dish, setting the table, and more. It can be just the right amount of messy, creativity-building play too!
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