Have you ever stopped to consider how often you count, measure, estimate, and compare when you are cooking? Your kitchen is rich with fun and yummy ways for your child to learn the basics of numbers, counting, and measuring.
String a Snack-lace
Here is a simple and fun activity that combines math and art — snack necklaces! Give your child a bowl of colorful O-shaped cereal. Ask him to count out the number of pieces he has, estimate how many more he will need for the necklace, and even create a repeating pattern as he strings his necklace. Use clean, new button thread and a blunt plastic tapestry needle for stringing (wonderful for eye-hand coordination practice, too). Your child can wear the snack necklace for the day and nibble at will!
Skills: counting, matching, patterning, "more or less than"
The Zoo Game
Sharing animal crackers together? Play this game to practice adding and subtracting! Ask your child to pretend that the palm of his hand (or a plate) is the zoo. "Can you put four animals in the zoo? Oh dear . . . one animal escapes!" (Your child eats one cracker.) "Now how many animals are left in the zoo?" (Three.) "Well, now the zookeeper put two more animals in the zoo. How many are in your zoo now?" (Five.) Continue the game, taking away and adding until you are both full. You can also try the game with goldfish crackers swimming in the ocean of your child's palm.
Skills: counting, addition, subtraction, estimating, and comparing
You and your child can use numeral cookie cutters to create an edible number line. Ask your child to top each cookie with the appropriate number of goodies. For example, the 1 would be topped with one pecan, the 2 with two candies, etc. (An 11-piece cookie-cutter set is $4.99 from kitchenkapers.com.)
Skills: recognition of numerals, one-to-one correspondence, counting
Math Is Measurement!
Almost every time you and your child cook or bake, you need to measure. Measuring teaches your child how to make comparisons and estimations, as well as to explore the relationship of parts to wholes. Of course, your child is also counting and adding as he puts the appropriate number of tablespoons or cups in a concoction. These are all essential skills that will be useful in learning the more complex math skills needed later in school for geometry and algebra.
When measuring ingredients, you can have your child explore how many small cups are in a big cup, or how many little teaspoons are equal to a big tablespoon. You might want to have some extra flour or salt available for mathematical exploration, so that you can keep proportions correct in whatever recipe you are using.
The Little Cook's Tool Kit is a wonderful child-sized collection of measuring and cooking tools in its own carrying case just right for little hands. With this set of tools, you are bound to have an eager cook (and mathematician) at your side whenever you are in the kitchen! ($20 at kidsbaking.com.)
It-Takes-Two Fruit Salad
What you need:
- 2 different yellow fruits, such as 2 bananas, peaches, or pineapple slices
- 2 different orange fruits, such as 2 oranges, mangoes or papayas
- 2 different green fruits, such as 2 peeled kiwis, 2 bunches of green grapes, or 2 green apples
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
- (optional) 2 tsp. grated coconut
What to do:
- Count out the "twos" of everything. Compare the sets of two fruits with one another. Is one set of "two" sometimes bigger than another?
- Cut fruits into bite-sized pieces.
- Combine together in a big bowl.
- Mix honey and lime juice together, and pour over fruit
- Sprinkle two teaspoons of grated coconut on top, if desired.
- Stir gently (two times!) to mix well.
- Let mixture sit for two minutes before serving.
Skills: counting, matching, concept of number (2), "more or less than"