Learning Comes to Life Preparing a Thanksgiving Meal - Kumon

Learning Comes to Life Preparing a Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving is about quality time with family and friends. This special day brings a long-held tradition of loved ones coming together for a meal to celebrate gratitude. Regardless of your family’s customs, the center of the holiday usually features one major component, the Thanksgiving feast. From pumpkin pie and the classic green bean casserole to more unique dishes like apple-filled baked pumpkins and funny edible decorative pieces, this magical day revolves almost entirely around cuisine. Preparing Thanksgiving recipes with your child can be just as enjoyable as eating them together.

Create a delicious learning experience this Thanksgiving with your children.

Preparation Is Everything Before you start cooking with your child this year, we recommend that you take some time to prepare. Age-appropriate recipes and dishware are a must to ensure your time with your child is enjoyable and free of scolding and the stress of conquering a new, complicated recipe.  Remember, the holiday is a about giving thanks – you’re not competing for a five-star rating or a spot on a cooking show, so relax and enjoy the holiday.

Selecting Dishes A Fruit Gobbler is a lighthearted, healthy Thanksgiving-themed recipe that is great for children who aren’t very familiar with cooking. It can even be used as an edible center piece and will surely spark conversation when it’s revealed. For the more experienced young chef, we recommend cooking Garlic and Herb Breadsticks as appetizers for your guests to munch on before the turkey is carved and the meal begins. Once you have made the recipe selection, collaborate with your child to make a list of ingredients and measuring tools that are required. This is a great way to open discussions about planning, shopping and using math and problem-solving skills.

Plan, Prepare and Then Let Go! Yes, cooking with your child requires more time, patience and planning – but it’s in these shared moments that traditions and memories are developed. It’s important to give each child ownership for a special dish or critical task in the preparation process. Determine everyone’s role and job in the kitchen. Think about how you can position each person in his or her own spot to avoid competition among siblings. Is your youngest son mashing potatoes while the older one is chopping carrots? Consider the tools needed, the length of preparation time and the difficulty of cooking each dish. It is important that your children feel that they are cooking with you and not just watching you cook. Trying to tackle a difficult recipe can end in frustration.

Let Loose the Reigns Try not to be concerned about creating the perfect dish with your child. Encourage creativity, even if that means the plan doesn’t go your way. The objective is to spend quality time together and teach your child a few things about cooking. If your child makes a mistake, roll with it. Turn the “oops” moment into a happy mistake. If you are making an arugula, pear and walnut salad and you forgot to purchase the walnuts, call it an arugula and pear salad. The focus should be on learning new skills in the kitchen, creativity and quality time, not perfection. On the other end of the spectrum, if your child decides to add an ingredient that may not necessarily complement the recipe, allow it. Experimentation in combining flavors and consistencies can be a great lesson in following instructions and the importance of paying close attention to details and can also be a a wonderful introduction to science. Allowing your child to make mistakes teaches him or her how critical it can be to follow a recipe step by step thus it also instills in him or her the importance of following instructions on a test in school and how the outcome can be affected by how well one listens or follows instructions. At the same time, a little experimenting in the kitchen can be ok. If anything, grandma might just like the taste of extra spicy stuffing!

Sharing Cooking Traditions Time in the kitchen is important for boys and girls. If your family is often split with the boys watching football and girls gathering in the kitchen, then try to bring the family together the day before so all your children can learn and enjoy the process of preparing special family meals.

Unfortunately, the holidays can often turn on the “stress switch,” and as parents, we end up easily snapping or getting irritated. Don’t let the anxiety of preparing a meal deter you from telling stories about your childhood cooking memories or sharing grandpa’s favorite potato recipe or how to create Aunt Suzy’s special pie crust. Cooking time is a chance to share your family secret recipes, share stories about your own childhood and create new traditions. Every parent has a “Thanksgiving cooking story” and passing on these memories helps your children understand their background and family history.

Hail to the Chef If your child participates this year in any project in the kitchen, make sure you let your guests know it. Though the Fruit Gobbler will probably stand out on its own as being made by your children, your guests may not realize that your daughter helped you make the gravy this year.  This will make your child feel like a star and encourage a lifetime of preparing the Thanksgiving meal together as a family. Family cooking time in the kitchen brings to life valuable lessons that your children will take to their own families for years to come.

So when your child accidentally shakes an entire jar of cinnamon into the sweet potatoes, just don’t panic. Your persnickety aunt will surely make a comment about the unusual taste, but the shared secret smiles between you and your children will remain in their hearts forever.

There is a passage from one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s books, The Brothers Karamazov: “People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education.”

Cooking together can be fun and full of happy memories. Just decide that quality time shared with your child is more important than perfection.