I greatly enjoyed an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal titled "There's No School Like the Kitchen." The online version carries the subtitle, "Cooking helps kids learn, appreciate different cultures and refine their motor skills." I found Lorraine Allen's article both intriguing and convincing. She writes:
My husband and I cook daily for our 8-year-old daughter because, like 15 million other Americans (an estimated two children per classroom), she has food allergies. For our daughter, this ritual is inspiring and educational. She loves helping out—rolling dough, mixing sauces—and creating her own dishes, from tarts to homemade linguine. At age 6 she opened her own allergy-friendly bakery. I’m no gourmet chef, but I spent much of my own childhood helping my grandmother in the kitchen, a lucky thing, I now know.
As our child grows, I’ve come to realize that helping in the kitchen develops far more than basic cooking skills. Children gain countless crucial developmental skills, and because they absorb these lessons in a hands-on, playful way, they are immediately engaged without parental nagging.
For toddlers, the kitchen is a perfect place to hone their gross and fine motor skills, using their hands to wash and peel produce, stir sauce, or dig out a measure of flour or pinch of salt. A preschooler will gain important cognitive skills from sorting forks and spoons, matching lids on sippy cups, and avoiding a hot stove.