Classroom in the Kitchen: Literacy Edition

As children begin to develop their ability to read and write, it’s important to encourage them through everyday activities. Of course, it can be a challenge to get kids engaged in reading with so many other distractions, however, food is a huge motivator!  Reading becomes more fun and comprehension tends to increase thanks to this motivating factor.

To get kids excited about the relationship between food and literacy, choose an ingredient or dish from a beloved children’s book to practice reading, writing, and cooking together. The excitement of bringing these stories and flavors to life will feel less like homework and more like fun. In this lesson, we will talk about how to apply children’s reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in the kitchen.

Choose a recipe together 

We suggest starting with a favorite food-themed children’s book. Try one of these popular books with a correlating recipes:

Reading Together

Recipes are a fun and tasty way to introduce new readers to instructional texts. Piecing together an ingredient list with recipe steps teaches critical thinking and problem-solving. 

  • Allow older children to read recipe steps aloud as you go.
  • For little ones, keep it simple by reading the steps to them and then showing them the what and how. 
  • Tell stories while you wait for the food to bake. This is a good time to learn about the dish you are cooking, where it comes from, and different variations of it for next time.
  • Learn about abbreviations through tsp, tbsp, lb, oz, and so on.
  • Reading extends to the grocery store. Ask your child to read and identify labels. 

Identify Environmental Print:

Environmental print is all around us, it is the print of everyday life. It appears on food labels, logos, street signs, and billboards. For children first learning to read, these contextual cues are helpful to bridge the connection between letters and words. 

Discuss different fonts and styles. Turn it into a game by asking kids to identify different prints at the store or at home by finding labels that showcase the following styles

Growing Vocabulary

Food preparation requires the understanding of many new and interesting words that can enrich a child’s vocabulary as they develop literacy skills. Hearing and seeing these words as they are applied to enjoyable real-life experiences helps retain their meaning. Take time to explain, define, and discuss new words and phrases.

  • Differentiate between cooking verbs. What’s the difference between slicing, dicing, mashing, and crushing?
  • Categorize different ingredients. For example, ask your child which types of foods are spices, vegetables, or nuts?
  • Reflect and express flavors & textures. Use words to describe how food tastes and feels. This provides a physical connection between the senses and the descriptive words used. 

Writing Shopping Lists

Including your child in the process of creating a shopping list teaches organizational skills, ingredient categorization, and food familiarity. Here are some suggestions to get them involved:

  • Start with two shopping lists. One for the adult for everything you need, and one for the child with 10-20 items.
  • Before you begin adding to the lists, name the items you’ll need with your child. Independent writers can write down the list for you, while pre-writers can pretend with their own pen and paper. Saying aloud what you’re writing as you add it to the list teaches the importance and purpose of the writing process. Kids will start to imitate this process, which is a great first step.
  • For 2-3-year-olds, use pictures for the child’s list. These could be stickers, emojis, drawings, or any food image. The pictures add an extra element for a child to decode the meaning.  Using an image to figure out what the letters spell is one stepping stone to becoming a solid reader.
  • For 3-5-year-olds, use pictures and color-coded words (green produce, blue dairy, red protein, etc.)
  • As your child becomes a stronger reader you can take the pictures off of the list. Keeping with the color-coding helps your new reader categorize and understand the word they are trying to read. 
  • 4-5-year-olds can start to trace your writing, and 5-6-year-olds can start to write and trace the shopping list.
  • As your child becomes a stronger reader, go to the grocery store (with plenty of time) and let them read the list to you.
  • Kids love to check-off ingredients from the list at the store, let them help with this part.
A special thank you to Julia Mohseni of Countryside Montessori!

If you liked this article, you'll LOVE the rest of our Classroom in the Kitchen Series! Check out other topics we've covered below: 

Classroom in the Kitchen: Math Edition

Classroom in the Kitchen: Science Edition

Classroom in the Kitchen: Nutrition Edition

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