Editor’s note: April 13-17 is Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and AzAEYC celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families. Raising Arizona Kids is proud to be collaborating with the AzAEYC all week to share insights and tips from Arizona’s professional community of early childhood educators. Yesterday’s post was “Music Monday.”
This Tasty Tuesday, I want to share a personal story about my good friend and colleague and her younger son. Denise Brown directs the largest universal preK program on Long Island, New York. In her free time, she watches cooking shows to relax. The Food Network’s Dinner Impossible, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay are just a few of her favorites.
Her younger son, Anthony, who is now 15, has been sharing the couch with her to watch these shows since he was very young. He enjoys them just as much as his mom does.
As an early childhood educator, Denise found plenty of ways for Anthony to help in the kitchen. He was toasting bread at 2, peeling potatoes as a preschooler, kneading bread as a kindergartner and sauteing summer squash when he was school-age. Their love of cooking shows continued to grow and Anthony was never afraid to try a recipe he saw on TV.
Denise encouraged him every step of the way.
So Anthony sent in an audition tape. He was selected to appear on the Food Network’s Chopped Junior, a reality-based cooking television game show series for young teens. He came in second place and everyone was so proud of him. In every description of the dishes he presented, he would start with, “When my mom or grandma would make…”
Can kids learn from cooking shows? You bet they can. They can learn recipes, they can learn the value of family, they can learn they have hidden talents, they can learn to take risks, and so much more.
Cooking is just the first part — now let’s talk about serving. Plenty of learning goes on during family-style dining, including modeling healthy eating habits and appropriate table manners.
Serve all of the meal’s components at the same time and make sure to offer child-sized bowls and utensils. Foster independence by offering tablespoons as the perfect size serving spoon for little ones. A one-cup measuring cup works as a great pitcher for a young child, too (don’t fill it all the way to the top).
Let children “pass” on foods they don’t care for. They’re more likely to eat what THEY put on their own plate. Making choices is part of independence and providing opportunities for them to choose sends the message that you trust their decision-making.
Sitting down together allows for quality time, teaching, learning and conversation, but most of all it promotes the opportunity to bond with your child and develop a warm, loving and memorable relationship. You are your child’s first teacher, and children are learning ALL of the time. So share what YOU love to do — whether it is cooking or baking, working puzzles, or watching a favorite old movie or TV show together that YOU loved back in the day.
And if you have a child like Anthony, who enjoys sharing the couch with you while you’re watching the latest episode of Carnival Eats or the Great British Baking Show, embrace that time together, talk about it, try a few recipes — and have fun!
Camille Lachar-Lofaro is board president of the Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AzAEYC). She arrived in Arizona with almost 30 years of experience working with teachers and administrators, children, families and communities in New York State. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Early Childhood Department at Central Arizona College and at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies Early Childhood Division as well as working for Easterseals Blake Foundation as an Education Coordinator.
Anthony Brown appeared on Chopped Junior in April 2017:
With a Desert Twist!
By Sabrina Ball
Let’s make tacos! Gather your ingredients for this regional and national favorite and have a great time making dinner with your family.
Try: AzAEYC’s “Taco Cookbook.”
Learn: Ten Tips on how to Cook with your Toddler at Home
Read aloud: “Dragons Love Tacos,” by Adam Rubin
Sabrina Ball has been involved in early childhood education for the past 30 years and is the director of Pinnacle Presbyterian Preschool, a Reggio inspired, NAEYC accredited preschool located in Scottsdale. She is also adjunct faculty at Paradise Valley Community College, a NAEYC Accredited Higher Education Program in Phoenix.