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 Week of the Young Child: Reading and Cooking

4/9/2019 12:00 AM

​"Mommy, can I help?" Many parents have heard this question while trying to get dinner on the table at the end of a long day. Our answer is often, "No, thanks." 

I would like to challenge parents and teachers of young children to embrace that help and trust their little ones to succeed. Helping a little bit (putting things on the table or counting silverware) improves a child's self-esteem and makes them feel important. 

In Early Childhood classrooms across RPS 205, teachers work on many self-help skills, including cooking projects. These hands-on activities done around preparing food fosters learning across all areas of development. Math, literacy, language, fine motor skills, social skills and life skills are learned and fostered while cooking.

In my preschool classroom, we cook often with the children. Our projects are usually tied to a book we are reading in class. We make pancakes when we read "If You Give a Pig a Pancake." We learn the story about "Stone Soup" and each bring in a vegetable to cut up and contribute to our own soup. We make butter when learning about the farm, cookies when doing math projects around the book "The Doorbell Rang," and popcorn at Halloween time when we read "Popcorn" by Frank Asch. 

One of my absolute favorite projects is when we make green eggs and ham. After we read the book "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, it is time to cook. I got my recipe for green eggs and ham when I worked at Two Rivers Head Start in Sycamore. There is no green food coloring in this recipe, and I don't think I have ever thrown out any leftovers when making this with kids. They eat it all up every time! 

Green Eggs and Ham Recipe
1 egg per person
1 pile of about 10 fresh spinach leaves per person
1 3-inch piece of green onion
2-3 pieces of ham (I buy 2 small ham steaks for 20 kids) cut into 3-inch strips of a good width to make small cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Tools needed: Non-stick electric fry pan, rubber spatula, wire whisk, large bowl, small bowl, plastic knives, small plates and forks, serving bowls and serving spoons

1) First and foremost, you need to make sure you have enough eggs so that each child can crack their own. This is something many kids never experience at home and they love doing it.

2) Provide them with a bowl that will break the egg but won't move around while they work.

3) Once the egg is in the bowl, you can help them take out any shell before adding it into your egg mixture.

4) Once that is done, it is time to start with the green parts. We use fresh spinach leaves and green onion to make our eggs green. Each child is given a paper plate and plastic knife along with a small pile of spinach leaves and a piece of green onion. We start by pulling the stems off the spinach leaves. They don't seem to like the stems cooked in the eggs, so we get rid of those before cooking.

5) Everyone cuts up their veggies and ham.

6) Add veggies and ham to the egg mixture.

7) All the children stir the mixture so they can see how their egg gets incorporated into the veggies.

When everyone has cracked their egg and combined their veggies and ham, we start cooking. I bring a large electric skillet into the classroom and cook the eggs with the kids. They get a turn to stir it in the pan if they choose. We add some salt and pepper as well.

When the eggs are done, it is time to eat! If someone is not sure about tasting, we quote the book: "Try them and you may, try them and you may, I say!" Then we have a vote with thumbs up or thumbs down to see who likes green eggs and ham. Again, there are never leftovers. This is a recipe they love, mostly because they did the cooking themselves.

Trust them to succeed. With just a little help, they can do it! Enjoy!

This blog post is part of a series celebrating the Week of the Young Child. The WOYC is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to focus public attention on early learning, young children, their teachers, families and communities.

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