Cooking and baking alongside your toddler and young child results in so much more than just a tasty meal or snack! When we cook with our child, we provide opportunities for learning science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
STEAM is a way of looking at learning that explores many subjects within the same activity—and your kitchen is the perfect place to explore these ideas and have fun doing so!
Cooking, by nature, is all about scientific reactions—the way cornstarch thickens soup, or yeast helps bread dough rise. But it can also be about making food art, or engineering the tallest sandwich tower!
When you do a cooking project, ask your child to guess what they think might happen. Then observe how it turned out. Becoming a master of anything begins with curiosity, and cooking is all about experimenting with flavors, textures and colors. Measuring, pouring, stirring and watching food grow and change are all about math and science, but also spark creativity and artistry. And don’t we want learning to be fun?
Here are some ideas for teaching STEAM using food:
Watermelon Volcano Experiment:
Just in time for summer, turn a watermelon rind into an exploding volcano (after you save the red, ripe delicious insides for a snack, of course)!
- Small watermelon
- Baking soda
- Dish soap
Carve your watermelon like you would a pumpkin, cutting a small hole in the top (just big enough so that you can get your hand into it. Then, scoop out the watermelon insides so the watermelon is hollow—save your watermelon for snacks later!
Then, pour ½ cup baking soda into the watermelon, followed by a few drops of dish soap. The fun really begins when you pour in the vinegar and your watermelon volcano “explodes”!
Ice Cream In A Bag:
Making your own ice cream is a great way to get the whole family moving and shaking—and cool off during hot summer days.
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup Half & Half
- ¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ cup table salt
- 4 cups of ice cubes
- Small, sealable sandwich bags
- Gallon-sized freezer bags
- Oven mitts
In a small sealable bag, add 1 tablespoon of sugar, ½ cup of Half & Half, and ¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract. Set aside.
In a gallon size sealable bag, add 4 cups of ice cubes and ½ cup of salt. While still sealed shut, place your small bag of sugar and milk into the large bag of salt and ice. Seal the bag.
Wearing oven mitts, shake the bags for 5 minutes. Then, the ice cream is ready to eat!
Fruits and vegetables are full of beautiful colors—and taste good too! Have a fun, and yummy time with your kiddos making a fruit rainbow.
- Strawberries (Red)
- Oranges or golden raspberries (Orange)
- Pineapple (Yellow)
- Green grapes (Green)
- Blueberries (Blue)
- Purple grapes (Indigo and Violet)
- Plain yogurt
Prepare your fruit by washing it and cutting the strawberries, oranges, pineapple, and grapes into ¼ size bites. Assemble your rainbow by following the sequencing of rainbow colors “ROYGBIV”: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. At the ends of your rainbow, add a few dollops of plain yogurt for clouds. Enjoy!
Fun in the kitchen
“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.” — Julia Child
There are so many ways to look at cooking through a STEAM lens. And whether your child is a toddler or a tween, there are lots of age-appropriate activities for using STEAM in the kitchen. Enjoying time doing a STEAM learning activity with your child builds lifelong memories and sparks their passion for learning through fun and creativity.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).