Counting and Cooking – Part 2

Doni Chamberlain is a passionate cook and has taken both her children and her grandchildren on grand cooking adventures in her home kitchen. In part two of Counting and Cooking with Doni Chamberlain, we’re about to find out about some of her favorite things to prepare with young children. And check out the bonus recipe from Doni!

Doni recalls, “As soon as they were in a high chair, I’d let my toddlers stir batter or ‘cut’ things on their high-chair tray with a dull butter knife. Cooking involves lots of non-cooking preliminary activities. As children get a little older, they can scrub potatoes with a brush and shuck corn.

Recipe for Molasses Ginger Snaps


But food prep starts before you set foot in the kitchen. Parents can start outside the kitchen and create a little garden where the kids can plant their own vegetables, which they’ll cook later. They can help with grocery shopping, and go to the farmers markets and allow them to pick out one healthy thing.”

Cooking with children helps expose them to new foods and it’s a smart way to get them to keep trying nutritious fruits and vegetables. Activities like counting carrots and broccoli and arranging them in a pattern or sequence on a plate contributes to early math and super early algebra skills! Families will discover their favorite things to make together and may want to try one of Doni’s favorite things: molasses finger cookies!

She says, “Treats like cookies are fun, and they’re something my grandchildren and I make fairly frequently, but we always box them up and give them away. But there are other things, too, like salads made with fruits that most kids like, such as all kinds of berries, apples and oranges. Personally, I have never been much of a carrot-coin, tomato-wedge, diced-celery salad person. Boooooring. Kids are more likely to eat salads if you can slip in things they already like, such as fruits I just mentioned.

Smoothies are fun, too, and the kids love plopping the ingredients in the blender. Quesadillas are easy, as are grilled cheese sandwiches. And kids love dips, whether it’s veggie sticks in ranch dressing or peanut butter sauce with apples. Meatballs are fun. Let the kids (with clean hands, of course) squish everything together. Remember, it’s crucial that an adult helps them wash their hands thoroughly to remove all traces of raw meat. In a perfect world, they’d use gloves.”

Cooking is an important life skill that children learn from joining parents and grandparents in the kitchen. As Doni says, “A child who can cook can grow up confident and able to feed him/herself, family, and friends. Plus, a person who cooks is popular, because who doesn’t want a friend who can cook and prepare delicious foods?”

From numeracy & literacy lessons and delicious, healthy (or sweet) snacks to the squinchy-eyed pucker after a curious little tongue tastes a lemon for the first time, great joy can be found when you cook with kids. Now, who’s ready to bust out the plastic measuring cups and a rubber spatula?

Have a question for our expert? Just comment below!

About Deborah Peel

Writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. I’m passionate about the pathway to success that First 5 Shasta is building for young children. Our grantees, partners, and caring community members all contribute to this critical early childhood investment. Together, we make the pathway strong!

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