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Thanksgiving Day: Kids in the kitchen

Thanksgiving with kids

Children learn by touching, tasting, feeling, smelling and listening -- and what better place to mix all those ingredients than in the kitchen? With Thanksgiving around the corner, take this opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen with your pre-schoolers, letting them help prepare the holiday meal while learning new skills along the way.

Why teach children to cook?

Teachable moments in the kitchen are plentiful for kids of all ages - even very young children can stir ingredients, while older pre-schoolers can crack eggs and measure liquids. Cooking uses skills ranging from math (counting, measuring, sequencing of events, understanding time) and beginning reading (numbers, symbols, word recognition) to science (chemistry, temperature, cause and effect) and learning patience and self-control (waiting for something to bake).

When planning your Thanksgiving meal this year, incorporate a few ways to teach your child in the kitchen. Some ideas:

Time:

While your turkey is in the oven, encourage your child to keep track of the time by comparing the amount of time passed on an oven timer to that on a watch or clock; this will reinforce time-telling skills. Compare the time it takes to cook the turkey versus the time it takes to bake a pie.

Measurements:

Assemble the ingredients and measuring utensils with your child, including individual measures for dry ingredients 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon. Together, you can measure the ingredients to learn about fractions and units of measurement. Also, show your child how to measure liquids with a liquid measuring cup.

Shapes and colors:

Talk about the various colors on the Thanksgiving table: Orange sweet potatoes, green peas and red cranberry sauce, for instance. Also discuss shapes and sizes: Are the dinner rolls round or square? Are the pearled onions the same size as the peas? What shape is a piece of pumpkin pie? How about a whole apple pie?

Motor skills:

Let your child knead bread for the homemade rolls or pour milk from a measuring cup into the mashed potatoes.

Making kid-friendly stuffing:

Fill a bowl with slightly crushed plain croutons and have your child sprinkle in different seasonings such as garlic or onion powder, celery seed and dried parsley. Have your child add water (a turkey baster and bowl of water works well), stirring and adding more spices or water to make the perfect stuffing.

Salad time:

Let the children help put together the dinner salad, which is something kids of all ages can work on together. The older ones can cut the veggies, and the younger ones can tear the lettuce, wash it in a salad spinner and help toss the salad and dressing.

History and meaning:

While working with your child in the kitchen, talk to your child about what the Thanksgiving holiday means or take a moment between recipes to read a book about the holiday and why it is celebrated the same day every year in November.

learning opportunities and bonding, too!

Remember to supervise or oversee your child's time in the kitchen; hot ovens and kitchen utensils can be dangerous. Preparing a Thanksgiving meal offers countless opportunities to teach your child skills while fostering creativity. It also gives you an opportunity to bond with your child, creating lifetime memories for both of you.

By whipping up some simple recipes with your kids in the kitchen, you're helping to build their creativity, build their self confidence and raise self esteem. Get your kids in the kitchen this Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving tips:

Find holiday tips and fun Thanksgiving crafts for kids on SheKnows Thanksgiving!
Find out 5 Thanksgiving time-savers every cook should know.
Get your free Thanksgiving cheat sheet.

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