Cooking with Infants to Pre-Schoolers

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

I find cooking dinner the most stressful part of the day.  I am usually rushing so that I can feed the kids, bathe them, and have them in bed early.  And most of the time, my kids tend to be the least cooperative at this point.  I always aim for it to be their “free play” time with their blocks or legos, but it never seems to go quite as I imagine.  Lately, I have been finding ways to get them both involved with special tasks to help.  Here are some tips for moms who need to get a meal on the table.

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Layaan helping me pan fry a fish fillet.

Infants

Before my kids could crawl, the bouncer was my best friend, for others it could be the swing, and who knows what other contraptions are out there now. We were pretty tight on money when we had my first, so the only fancy thing our bouncer did was vibrate.  Basically, I would make some funny faces, shake the baby toys, bounce it a few times, go back to my cutting board, and repeat until I finished.  I pretty much looked like a mad woman running around the kitchen.

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Muhammad at 1 month old in his bouncer in the kitchen while I cook.

After they became more mobile, I kept the cabinets that were accessible baby-friendly with pots, pans, plastic tupperware, empty cans, and anything else that was safe and interesting.  For little ones, being in the same vicinity as you may be enough, and other times they may want you to take a five minute break and bang some empty plastic bins with them.  You could pop them in the high chair with some yoghurt to make “art” or  place water and toys in a bin on a large towel.  Sensorial activities for infants are the best distraction, especially in the kitchen where the mess can be easily cleaned.

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Layaan at 12 months old.

Other times, if they were particularly clingy, I would just pop them into the carrier and sing or have conversations while cooking.  I did my best not to use technology as a distraction, though I was tempted to.

Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers

Once they hit the latter toddler years, it can begin to get a little tough to keep them entertained and out of your way.  They are far more curious and want to do whatever you are doing.  To solve this issue, I figured why not just let them actually help.

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Layaan rinsing the mushrooms after washing off the dirt from the fresh spinach.

Here are a list of easy and difficult tasks the kids can assist with.  You may be surprised by how helpful they can actually be.  I know I was!

Easy Tasks

  • Washing spoons/plastic dishes
  • Rinsing & scrubbing vegetables and fruits
  • Bringing & returning items from the fridge/cabinets
  • Using a dull edged knife (kid-friendly) to slice soft fruits/veggies
  • Mixing dry ingredients
  • Pouring dry ingredients
  • Counting ingredients
  • Mashing

 

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Layaan peeling cooled tomatoes for a homemade tomato sauce.  Muhammad, in the background, helping to rinse veggies and wash utensils and dishes.

Challenging Tasks

  • Washing dishes
  • Pouring wet ingredients
  • Mixing wet ingredients
  • Measuring
  • Mixing food on the stove
  • Slicing/chopping with sharp edge
  • Peeling
  • Grating
  • Sifting
  • Rolling
  • Using a mortar & pestle

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Layaan chopping the mushrooms.

Cooking is a great way to help build vocabulary, math skills, practice fine motor skills, sensorial development, and following directions.  Muhammad (23 months) and Layaan (3 yrs, 10 months) learn the names of the different vegetables, ingredients, and kitchen tools in all three languages (English, Arabic, and Urdu).  Throughout the cooking process, we pause to feel the texture, note the different colors and smells, and so on.  In a fun and practical way, I ask them to count the ingredients, or bring me certain amounts.

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Layaan mixing the tomato sauce.

Through the real life experience of cooking, we can touch upon a number of skills in a tangible way.  This concrete learning will pave the path to more abstract concepts later on.  It also teaches them healthy habits, responsibility, and life skills.  The added bonus, both my kids are always more willing to eat what they helped me make.

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Spinach and mushroom pasta with chunky tomato sauce prepared and cooked by Layaan & Muhammad with adult supervision by Mom.

So get cooking, and share your experiences down below!

 

Plant Unit: Fruit Dissection & Craft

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

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We continued our study of plants by examining seeds.  Two fun activities popped up on my Pinterest feed that were related to seeds.  I decided to combine the two activities together as they were related to one another.  The first activity was posted by the Christian Montessori Network called Montessori Science:  Dissecting Fruit.  The other activity was a beautiful craft idea posted by Pink Stripey Socks called Kid Science:  Let’s Study Seeds.  Both activities can be used in many different ways, not just for seed study.  They are both good for learning about the parts of fruit, using fruit nomenclature cards, etc.   IMG_5774

First, we did the dissecting fruit activity.  I thought this was such a unique idea to introduce pre-school aged children to science tools and the scientific process.  Layaan loved using the tweezers to pull out the seeds.  It incorporated fine motor skills along with science.  IMG_5781Before we cut open the fruits, I asked her to make a good guess as to wat color and how big she was expecting the seeds to be.  We observed all the seeds as we pulled them out and discussed if her guesses matched what we found.  Though I only have an apple and pear pictured, we also did it with oranges, grapes, and tomatoes.  IMG_5780After we rinsed off the seeds, we did the art activity from Pink Stripey Socks.  I drew the outline of the fruit, and she painted the inside.  We then glued the seeds onto the respective fruits.  Once everything was dry, we continued to observe the similarities and differences between the seeds.   This activity was great for comparing sizes of seeds, texture, colors, etc, while also combining art and spatial awareness.

I loved watching Layaan do this activity.  I could see that she was really intrigued by it all.  I watched a little scientist bloom through this.  Check out our other posts from our plant unit listed below.

Plant Unit Posts:

DIY Greenhouse

Busy Bags

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

Spring break is here and many of you are preparing to use this time for a small getaway!  Busy bags are the best!  I love that they are a great alternative to screen usage.  There are some really great ideas out there on Pinterest and other blogs.  It is super easy to make them and they are life savers on any trip.  Here are some highlights from the busy bags we have been using on our most recent trips.

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Busy bags, coloring book, reading book, and backpack.

Continue reading

Arctic Sensorial Bin

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba,

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We are going to wrap up our winter theme soon.   Layaan, Muhammad, and I made an arctic sensorial bin using fake snow and arctic animals together.  I also printed out nomenclature cards of the animals in Arabic to match with the toys.  This activity is perfect for all age groups.  You can make it as easy and as challenging as you need for the child’s age. Continue reading

DIY: Montessori Number Rods

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

Number rods are used for the ages of 3.5-6 years in Montessori learning.  Once children master the red rods, they move on to these.  They are ten wooden rods.  The smallest rod represents one and is usually one decimeter long building up to ten which is one meter long.  The rods alternate in red and blue colors to represent each decimeter.  They are one of the first Math lessons given to introduce a number of skills; counting, understanding the value of the number visually, associating the numeral to its value, and finally simple addition and subtraction.

DIY MONTESSORI NUMBER RODS

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Here I give you steps on how I made my own number rods.  I measured each section 3.5 inches long rather than one decimeter dividing the longest rod into ten equal parts. Continue reading