Welcome to Day 1 of our 5 Days of Kitchen-Schooling series! I hope you’ll enjoy taking a look at how we use the kitchen in our homeschool to a variety of subjects. Just promise me one thing, ok? No judgement for my messy counters! Sometimes the best learning happens when the counters are covered in clutter…
Ok, here we go!
Day 1: Life Skills
Monkey has always been a big helper in the kitchen. Especially when it came to baking, so it was natural for us to try to incorporate learning into our daily kitchen activities. I love the preschool age because they are always so eager to learn and try something new. It’s the perfect time to teach some essential life skills.
Maintaining a Garden
So not technically “in the kitchen,” but gardening is something that we enjoy doing as a family that provides us with plenty of learning opportunities that are directly related to what happens in the kitchen.
Each spring, the boys get to pick one special plant that is theirs to care for. Last year, it was tomato plants, this year they picked dwarf nectarine trees. This is a great trick to get the boys to try new vegetables. It is amazing how growing something yourself suddenly makes it so much more appetizing!
Knowing how to grow your own food is such a valuable lesson and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space. To help maximize the area we have available for our vegetable garden, we plant in pots and use a metal rack to utilize the vertical space.
Gardening is a skill that there is no “minimum age” for. I mean, you probably want to wait until baby can understand that dirt isn’t for eating, but kids (at least my kids) LOVE digging in dirt and if they can turn that dirt pile into something productive – awesome!
Learning How to Pick Produce
Whether its identifying when your garden spoils are perfect for picking or at the grocery store, learning how to pick quality produce is a perfect skill for preschoolers to learn. Booger is almost three and has hit that stage where he doesn’t want to ride in the shopping cart any more, but he isn’t quite ready to walk along with me without getting distracted every other minute.
I’ve learned that if I give him specific tasks to help with, our shopping trips are much more pleasant. He gets to help and is “allowed” to touch things rather than being expected to walk along without touching anything or having to ride in the cart which inevitably results in a temper tantrum.
With Booger, we will look at the produce together and I’ll talk about what qualities I’m looking for, firm with no blemishes in the case of a cucumber or a sweet smell from a cantaloupe. We also talk about how you only pick up one item at a time and pick from the top of the pile not the bottom. As we talk, I let him touch and smell right along with me. Monkey is a pro now and I can ask him to go pick a bell pepper and he’ll come back with the best one.
Booger loves helping cut fruit. I give him either a plastic knife or a butter knife and let him chop away at soft fruits while I work along side him. He’s my go to guy for cutting a watermelon into squares!
Monkey has progressed to using a sharp knife. In the picture above, I placed a towel under the cutting board to hep prevent slipping (also helps contain mess if you are cutting juicy fruits!). I cut the cucumber into slices and then had him cut each slice into smaller pieces for our favorite vegetable pasta salad (recipe below).
In our house, if you are “big enough” to make the mess, you can also clean it up. This includes helping clean the kitchen. Booger can help unload the dishwasher but handing me the silverware and kid dishes. He can also sweep and Swiffer mop the floor. Monkey helps by clearing dirty dishes from the table and wiping down the table and counters. Yes, sometimes I have to go behind them and re-do some of the cleaning, but the more they practice, the better they get.
Vegetable Pasta Salad
Ready to test the skills discussed above? This Vegetable Pasta Salad is easy to make and is a fun way to get your kids to try out new vegetables while surrounding them with kid-friendly noodles.
This pasta salad is one of those “stone soup” kind of recipes. You add a bit of this and a bit of that and suddenly you have enough food to feed a village! Perfect for when you have vegetables in the fridge that need to be used before they go bad or if you are trying to feed a crowd on a budget. You can add shredded cooked chicken and/or pepperoni and salami to make this a main dish or leave out the meat and serve it as a side dish.
We like to use tri-color pasta in a variety of shapes, since Monkey only likes the green and “plain” noodles and Booger only wants the wagon wheels. The variety of shapes and colors just makes it a bit more fun – you can substitute for your favorite kind of pasta.
For this recipe, I usually start with a pound of pasta and after adding all the vegetables and meat (if using), I have enough for dinner and lunch the next day. Feel free to substitute any vegetables you like. Our usual vegetable mix is cucumber, red, yellow, orange, and green bell pepper (can you tell we like bell pepper?!?), purple onion, and cherry tomatoes. Look at these beautiful vegetables! Monkey did most of this chopping!
After cooking and cooling the pasta, combine pasta and vegetables. Add olives, cubed cheese (any type – we’ve done mozzarella, cheddar, pepper jack – all delicious!), artichoke hearts and any meat. Top with Italian dressing and mix well. You want to use enough dressing to coat the pasta – I usually end up using about 1/2 a bottle.
Here’s the finished product! I had a crowd to feed so this is a double batch, half with shredded chicken and half with some pepperoni and salami I had leftover from making Hearty Hero Sandwiches.
This post is part of a week long blog hop hosted by The Homeschool Review Crew: 5 Days of Homeschool.
5 Days of Kitchen-Schooling with Preschoolers
Keep on hopping! Read more 5 Days of Homeschool blog hop posts by clicking on the links below.