The challenge of cooking in preschool

Cooking in preschool can be a challenging process – especially when you have 1 teacher to 10 three year olds.

Every one wants a turn to stir, pour, crack an egg, and everyone wants to stick their finger in the batter no matter how many times they are told that they need to keep their hands on the outside of the bowl:)

But even with all of these challenges, these brave teachers invest the time and energy in letting their children experience the process of cooking.

Each child participated in some part of the process but as I observed this classroom, my mind began to swirl with ideas for how we could help the children be even more involved.

I thought that perhaps after the big bowl is all mixed up, we could give each child a small cup and spoon of their own – fill it with batter – and let them mix it up.

I thought that perhaps we could divide the 1 cup of water the recipe called for into 10 small parts so each child could do a little pouring.

Then I thought that perhaps we could let everyone crack an egg in some other bowl just for fun while we save two for the recipe – what’s a dozen eggs!

I thought that perhaps each child could pour their own little cup of batter into their cupcake holder.

And then I just stopped thinking for a minute and started listening and watching. This little one was fascinated by the cupcake holders – stacking, unstacking, and dropping them in the pan.

I think just playing with cupcake holders and the pans would have been quite engaging by itself.

What this entire process reminded me of is why it is so important that we don’t just depend on a cooking activity to help children learn how to measure, pour, stir, and take a turn. These skills are something we can work on everyday through activities like water play, sand play, fine motor play, and other experiences.

The children were eager to participate in this cooking and they enjoyed the part they played. Although I always wonder if we can do more, I still saw that it was a success in every way. Of course, the results of getting a yummy snack later is a great reward too!

I want to try new ideas for getting the kids more involved but I realized today that cooking is a great way to assess the skills our students are developing and a terrific reminder to make sure we are providing them with ample opportunities through their play to develop all the skills they need in daily living.

But, if you have ideas to offer up as to how to make the process more interactive – I would love to hear them!

See this post on 6 Things Children Learn from Cooking from Waddlee-ah-chaa!

By |2010-09-24T23:40:15+00:00September 24th, 2010|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Sherry and Donna September 25, 2010 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Cooking with children can certainly be challenging Deborah but they do love it! I think a lot of parents can find it a challenge as well so children probably don’t get as much exposure to it as they (or we) would like. We try to cook every week with our children so I guess because it isn’t so novel, our children do get a good go at it, as they know if they feel ripped off in their involvement this week there will always be next week…besides we ALWAYS make enough for everybody and for some children it’s not the journey so much as the yummy destination they look forward to! Recently we made fried rice with the children and they ate it with chops stick. Now THAT was fun!
    Donna 🙂 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart September 25, 2010 at 9:25 am - Reply

      Yummmm – fried rice is a great idea! I agree, cooking often is definitely something that would lend to less concern over who gets to stir or pour today!

  2. Sarah November 12, 2010 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I teach the 3 & 4’s at my preschool. We do one kitchen project a month, and one every day in the month that nutrition is our theme. I always struggle with the process. Finding cooking projects that the children will benefit from the process. After 3 years and many adjustments, I decide to divide most of the ingredients between 9 small cups. This gives each child the opportunity to dump and stir. So 3 children may have flour, 2 eggs, 5 water, etc. The like the mixing best! I steer away from measuring because the 3 year olds are too eager! 🙂 But we hit on measuring during the nutrition month with the measuring cups in the rice table. Then towards the end of the unit, the kiddos get to measure sauce and cheese when we make our own personal pizzas. We also work on pouring our own water for snack during this unit. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart November 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I like how you keep adjusting and seeking ways to make cooking work for your class. The children do love it and all your efforts are so wonderful them!! Thanks for sharing your great tips!

  3. Sue kilgour April 3, 2018 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Hi, my name is us Kilgour and I am a kindergarten teacher in New Zealand. I have written a book about process cooking this is activity involves each child making their own individual food item in their own bowl. They follow a series of pictures showing them how many spoon fulls they need then they put it into a tray with their name in the correct space. Check out my FB page “process cooking in early childhood” for more info. You can order a book by emailing me

Leave A Comment

This site uses 'cookies' to give you the best, most relevant experience. Using the website means you're OK with this. Ok