One of my favorite teachable moment activities is to cook with students. Some might think that I am a bit nuts, but cooking has so many educational attributes and developmental characteristics that it’s just too good to not take the leap into a bag of flour! The draw to cooking with kids has been an interest of mine since I began working in daycare when I was 15. I worked in a waddler room (12-30 months) with a teacher that I had been teaching in the same classroom for over 20 years. She cooked with the kids every week. Whether it was making playdough or challah, the waddlers were elbow deep in ingredients every Thursday. Back then, I thought this was just a fun experience for the kids to participate in; however, as I continued to grow and my interest in education peaked, I saw what an important activity cooking was! Between the mathematics of measuring and counting to the sensory of the ingredients and fine motor skills of stirring and pouring, it’s the perfect activity for toddlers. #theadventuresofsj attends Nido Durham three mornings a week and has developed amazing toddler friendships. She talks about her friends every day–E did this, C did that–and has recently started dreaming about interactions she had with them. (Side note–I love learning about how the brain develops, and did a report in grad school about the importance of sleep and dreaming in children. Last week, #theadventuresofsj sat up in the middle of her afternoon nap and said, “Charlie band-o”, referring to her friend Charlie playing the banjo. This is just another amazing thing about #mommymakesithappen and the choices that have brought me to where I am today.) When we started back in August 2015, the wonderful owners Lis and Tiff needed a bit of childcare coverage. I volunteered of course! I missed the classroom and this was a non-pressure environment. This opportunity has continued through the school year. I have been able to bring some of my favorite activities to the Chickadee room with the amazing teacher Maggie. She has been on board with all of my tried and true “out of the box” ideas. When I mentioned the idea of cooking to her as a good-bye for a student that was moving away, she was game and couldn’t wait to see the end product.
At the current Nido location, we have a microwave and toaster. This made figuring out what to cook an interesting challenge because we needed something that could be made with the utensils we had AND something that our sweet Chickadees would enjoy…CUP-CAKE was the answer!
As I began to plan out the activity, make a grocery list, and pull together kitchen gadgets, I realized that this was going to be a different cooking experience for me as a teacher. I was “trained” in early childhood education through developmentally appropriate practice (DAP); Nido adheres to the Montessori Method. These are two different theories of educational practice that can take an activity down different roads to get to the same ending point. The Montessori Method has a very distinctive way of interacting with students and organizing an activity that is different from DAP. I returned to my educational theory book to rethink how to do a cooking activity with toddlers and racked my brain about language, set up and follow through using the Montessori Method.
The morning of the activity, I was breaking a sweat driving in, thinking about the activity. As Maggie and I began organizing the materials, kids and general orientation and direction of the cup-cake, it felt so right. It felt like I was slipping on my comforting pair of UGGs on the first cold day of the year. As the activity continued, the mess grew bigger and the squeals of excitement were more frequent, I realized no matter what educational theory that is being used, a cooking activity is a cooking activity. Toddlers love to pour, dump, stir, mix, splash and repeat no matter the method or madness. They need to try new things, be challenged with new skills and be pushed out of their comfort zone every so often.