Cooking with Children

Have you ever had Thunder Cake?

It was my first successful from-scratch cake and I made it with a classroom full of four and five-year-olds.

I was still fairly new to the world of Early Childhood Education and my principal challenged me to incorporate some cooking into my classroom highlighting the many benefits. Initially terrified at the thought of cooking with young children, I had brought in a prepackaged mix so the children just had to add water, stir, and bake – not a very engaging or tasty with kids

Several weeks later, a colleague introduced me to the book Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.   In the story, a young girl runs around her grandmother’s farm gathering supplies for “Thunder Cake” before a summer storm hits.  Using the recipe in the back of the book, I walked the children through the steps to bake our own Thunder Cake.  The children were excited as we worked together to crack the eggs, sift the flour, measure the sugar, and use the mixer.  They loved the experience and we all enjoyed our special treat afterward.

I soon realized cooking with children is not just about the treat we enjoy in the end, it encompasses the process and preparation before the first bite.

During cooking activities children:

  • Engage in specialized vocabulary. Think of the many actions of preparing a meal: chopping, mixing, sautéing, boiling, seasoning, and baking. Children will engage with these words as they are involved in cooking activities.
  • Enhance fine motor skills. While children are stirring ingredients, kneading the dough, and using cookie cutters they are also strengthening the muscles in their hands and forearms. Writing requires strength in these muscles to grip a pencil and control its movement.
  • Improve math skills. During cooking activities, children learn how to use different units of measure and are introduced to fractions. They practice counting skills and follow a sequence of steps.  Children discover concepts of time as they learn how long something must cook.
  • Develop language skills. Younger children must listen to directions and older children read to follow a recipe.  Both benefit from experiences connecting literacy to daily living.
  • Learn scientific concepts. Children observe chemical reactions as heat is introduced to the dough. They use their senses to experience what is happening in the kitchen – the smells, the taste, what they see and hear.

Beyond academic benefits, children gain social and emotional benefits while cooking like bonding during a shared experience and feeling a sense of accomplishment and a sense of helpfulness.

This month at Stepping Stone School, many of our weekly themes will relate to food.  We will talk about the nutritious foods our bodies need to be healthy, we will learn about the five senses we use to explore our world and will discuss the types of foods that make up a well-balanced diet.

Looking for ways to apply these concepts at home: check out these healthy recipes.


Dell’Antonia, K. and Laskey, M. (2015, September 2). Cooking with Kids: 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing It. Retrieved from

Gavin, M. (2014, November). Cooking with Preschoolers. Retrieved from

Lopa, J. (2015, March 16). 10 Benefits of Cooking with Kids. Retrieved from


Age Groups:

Advanced Pre-K

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