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One of my favorite ways to teach my own kids is through hands-on learning. What better way to bring in experiential learning than to make lunches a part of the curriculum?
You can use meal planning and cooking to teach math, science, and health with the strategies below.
Meal Planning Calendars
First, print off four blank weekly or monthly calendars. On the first one, put breakfast meals. The second calendar should include lunch meals.
On the third, put dinner meals, and on the last one, list all the meals together (for the refrigerator). If you want something on one page, check out this simple weekly calendar to plan meals and snacks.
Organize and Create Recipes
Next, Most of us have tried-and-true recipes that we make regularly at home. Brainstorm that list of favorite meals with your kids. Next, create a recipe for that meal. Introduce serving sizes and meal balance from ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Don’t forget to factor in caloric intake based on ages. Once you’ve introduced the concept of serving sizes and meal balance, write your recipes accordingly. Don’t forget to make a list of each ingredient!
Assign Tasks and Challenges for Your Kids
Once your constant recipes are made, fill in the blanks! Make this fun by challenging your kid or kids. Task each kid with finding at least one recipe for the family.
Challenge each kid to find at least one meal that comes from another culture that they would like to try. (Put parameters based on what cooking devices you have at home, your budget, and any health-related issues anyone in your home may have.)
Use fun but simple recipes like fruit sandwiches or frozen yogurt, fruit, or sundaes. Consider using resources available through Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign or through ChooseMyPlate. Both sites have recipes and suggestions on healthy meals. Don’t forget cheat nights where you order take-out or go out to eat as a family!
Grocery Shop and Budget
Once you have meals planned, figure out what groceries you need. Consider your budget, and challenge your kids to help you make decisions. For example, maybe the local Farmer’s Market is healthier and cheaper but requires an extra trip and getting up early on a weekend.
Consider the longevity of the food in your plan, too, but discuss all of this with your kids! You’re almost ready to shop! Review food safety tips before you go. Practice food safety in the store and at home. While you’re shopping, give each kid a portion of the shopping list to gather. Show your kids how to look for the best food and be sure to look at those expiration dates.
Gather all of your items, and upon returning home, teach your kids how to prepare those items with the guidelines above. If you’re shopping and budgeting during social distancing, teach your child how to do this online with special shopping or delivery services or pick-up only to keep your children safe and at home!
When you are ready to prepare your meals, determine how you will accomplish this task without chaos. Meal services deliver pre-portioned meals to avoid waste, but they are also conveniently packaged. Maybe your kids can “shop” for the meal!
Have them take out the recipe and gather the ingredients. When it’s time to prepare, weigh your options. If you have more than two kids, you might consider splitting them up to assist in the kitchen. If you have little kids, it’s easier to have them add and take away rather than cut or cook.
As a bonus, if you allow your kids to use measuring cups and measuring spoons, they are practicing their math skills. Consider giving older kids a different size utensil from what the recipe calls for, so they can learn how to adjust.
For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup, give your kid ¼ cup instead. Continually reiterate food-safety techniques like avoiding cross-contamination and washing hands and surfaces often. Once the meal is made, have your kid dish plates for everyone, using the guidelines above.
Meal Prep is Family and Learning Time
My kids love our time together in the kitchen. Cooking as a family is a wonderful opportunity to learn, but it’s an even better opportunity to bond.
Whether you’re cranking up the music to dance around or sharing would-you-rather scenarios, take the time to enjoy building those memories in the kitchen with your kids while still teaching math, science, and health by meal planning and cooking.
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