Cooking with Children

Cooking with Children

7 August 2022

A great way to encourage learning in all areas of the curriculum is to involve children in the kitchen, helping with food preparation, cooking, and baking. Meal preparation offers a meaningful and natural context for a child’s learning, and it is something that we need to do every day! Cooking and baking supports learning in multiple ways, for example:

  • Chopping up vegetables for dinner introduces shapes and colours, concepts of division and fractions, multiples (2 carrots each for 4 people) as well as counting and comparison (more/less, longer/shorter).
  • Following a recipe promotes learning about sequencing (first, second, third).
  • Measuring out ingredients for baking requires concepts of capacity and number, as well as knowledge of how to use tools for weighing and measuring accurately.
  • Mixing, kneading and touching food offers sensory experiences.
  • Stirring, chopping, whisking and pouring practise motor skills and coordination.
  • Baking depends on all kinds of chemical reactions – children can observe the many ways in which food changes as a result of cooking, and also make predictions about what will happen.
  • Communicating about cooking introduces new vocabulary and instructional language.
  • Putting a meal on the table involves thinking skills: planning, calculating, preparing, ordering tasks, etc.
  • Selecting what to include within a meal teaches children about food groups and nutritional needs.
  • Harvesting foods from the veggie patch or herb garden teaches children about how foods grow.
  • Finding solutions when something goes wrong, or you don’t have a particular ingredient, engages children in problem-solving.
  • Arranging food on the plate or decorating a cake involves creativity.

Cooking works best when children have specific jobs to do – such as washing lettuce, chopping kumara, or just being the chief taster! It is also useful to talk through what you are doing as you cook, as children can learn a lot by watching and listening. Cooking together can be a special time where traditional and family recipes are shared.  (Information directly from

Learning outcomes from Te Whāriki are: over time and with guidance and encouragement, children become increasingly capable of:

  • keeping themselves healthy and caring for themselves / te hakai nui
  • making connections between people, places and things in their world / te waihanga hononga
  • recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn / te rangatiratanga
  • understanding oral language and using it for a range of purposes / he hakai ā-waha
  • recognising print symbols and concepts and using them with enjoyment, meaning and purpose / he hakai tuhituhi
  • recognising mathematical symbols and concepts and using them with enjoyment, meaning and purpose / he hakai pāngarau
  • playing, imagining, inventing and experimenting / te hakairo me te tūhurahura I te pūtaiao