Today I’m sharing interactive ideas for incorporating language learning around the theme of food and cooking with kids.
Whether you’re teaching your child a second language, learning a new language together at home, or want to foster your child’s first language development, there’s so much vocabulary and language learning that can be done through the daily routine of cooking and eating meals together.
Take the opportunity each day – or once a week – to involve your child in the cooking process and explicitly teach some new language. Any fun activity you do together is an opportunity for language input! Whether in English, Spanish, or any other language, these ideas will get your kids learning by doing – and engaging their five senses!
Of course, please keep your individual child in mind as you read through the ideas. You’ll need to tailor the complexity of the tasks to your child’s age and developmental stage. Have fun learning and cooking together!
Find your balance,
Grocery List & Shopping
Involve your child in creating a shopping list with you! Write down the specific ingredients you’ll need for a recipe you’re going to make together. Depending on your child’s age, he/she could draw pictures to represent each ingredient to practice pre-writing skills. Or, he/she could write down the ingredients independently.
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When making a recipe together, talk about each ingredient needed in the target language. Use this time to focus on new words – and foods! Instead of just talking or reading about foods, you’ll have the real objects in front of you. Encourage your child to touch and explore new foods. Consider focusing on a specific food group (like fruits or vegetables), and posting a list of new words you learned on the fridge for the rest of the week as you review them (I’ve even linked to some free printable Spanish food cards in “Explore More” below).
There are so many cooking utensils to learn in the kitchen! While you’re working together, don’t forget to name each utensil. One day, you could introduce all of the spoons/spatulas for mixing. Another day, talk about measuring cups and bowls. Still another, teach your child the names for pots/pans. Think about new items your child hasn’t used or learned about yet. What’s more, finding and using kid-friendly utensils may make the experience even more fun and engaging. A few favorites that we use at home: these learning chopsticks, nylon kid-safe knives, a molcajete, and foldable plastic cutting boards.
Making the Meal
As you prepare your recipe, take the opportunity to teach your child new verbs. This should come naturally as you follow the steps together. “First, we need to chop…. Then, we need to peel and slice. Can you help me stir?” What better way to learn the meaning of a new verb than actually trying it out?
Reading a recipe
Read the recipe aloud to your child, read it together, or have your older child read it to you to weave in some literacy learning. Of course, if the recipe is too complex for your child, simplify it as you go. Read the steps yourself and then make them comprehensible for your child. “So next we mix in the blueberries.” If you’re looking for a quality kids’ cookbook, here is our favorite in English, and our favorite in Spanish!
Enjoying the Meal
As you eat together, there’s still language learning to be done! Talk about the items on your table that you use to eat – forks, spoons, plates, bowls, chopsticks, placemats. How about focusing on a few new phrases in Spanish like “Please pass the ___” or “Would you like more _____?” Or, just keep trying to use the target language together as you discuss the day.
There are just countless opportunities to teach your child new words in the kitchen. In my home, we have many kitchen items labeled – like our stove, the dishwasher, and the microwave. If you’d like to put some labels around your kitchen, I’d love to share my English/Spanish home labels with your for FREE in the post below.
Explore Different Cultures
How about a weekly theme meal night? New Recipe Tuesday? Spanish Night Saturday! Language learning is the perfect opportunity to explore new cultures – and I’ve set you up for success with two posts of excellent books exploring food around the world – including cookbooks for kids! Check them out below.
Read & Learn Together
Enjoy reading some new food and cooking-related books together. I have posts with 20+ favorite picks for picture books and cookbooks in BOTH English and Spanish!
Cooking with Kids Website – recipes, videos, and tips for cooking with kids available in both English and Spanish!
Free printable Spanish food vocabulary activities – from Spanish Playground
What’s your favorite part about language learning in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments below! Connect with Bilingual Balance for new posts, ideas, and inspiration on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.