Things Learned while Cooking with a Child

This was a huge learning learning experience for me. Throughout the cooking I was constantly observing and thinking about what the implications were for my project as we moved through the meal.

I’m glad I planned so many meal items because it was a learning process for me as we went through the activity. For the first dish, the apple crumble desert, I was trying to tailor the activity too much to the child. I was making them the center of every step. I began to question if equal collaboration was possible. Then I realized the child participation was vital but not the entire goal. It was a challenge, I wanted to include her and to monitor what she was doing but also keep the cooking moving at a nice pace.

Something I didn’t notice until I watched the video was that the setting of the workspace became very important. Because she was a beginner and too young to read, I did have to help and monitor everything she was doing. But, because we had all of our ingredients and tools right in front of us we were able to work closely side-by-side. I was easily able to accomplish a separate task quickly while observing what she was doing and being available to help her.

Also, because she was right next to me she observed what I was doing and often imitated my techniques. This provided multiple opportunities for learning, such as I was able to teach her some knife skills and techniques.

Before beginning, I felt like the number of recipes and tasks may have been too intense or too much for 6 year old. I planned our time to include breaks or pauses in case she got tired or bored. To my surprise the child wanted to continue cooking through all planned breaks. When we finally took one after nearly two hours of cooking, she was so excited that she kept asking ‘can we start cooking again?’ That was some great positive feedback.

One assumption that was challenged was the idea that kids more likely eat veggies they made. That idea didn’t work on this child, she was more focused on impressing parents with a nice meal that eating it herself. She loved tasting the sauce we made but then did not want to eat the vegetables in the stir-fry. This was also reinforced by the parents once dinner started that trying the vegetables was not necessary or important for her or her sibling.

other observations:

  • The fact that it was unfamiliar kitchen added complexity and possibly time that would not exist in the end-user scenario.
  • Hand washing was specified on each card but needed adult monitoring and reinforcement.
  • I noticed that I incorporated kitchen-clean up into each stage. Constant kitchen clean-up during any transition was not on the cards but is an observation about the way I maintain a kitchen during meal preparation that might be helpful to others.
  • Kids are learning a lot and may be slower. Even though the whole system helps with the time management, parents would need to consciously allow space for the children to learn.
  • The special ‘kid tools’ for the kitchen were mostly ineffective. The best tool was the knife which did alright on some produce and also offered a less threatening alternative for children fearful of knives.
  • She was very excited about plating a custom dish for each family member and setting the table.
  • She loved taking photos of the meal. She wanted to take photos of the steps but got engaged with the activity and forgot about the camera until it was time to plate the meal.


JournalKaren Whistler