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Little Chefs

Exploring early literacy through cooking

Children are born ready to learn. Everyday experiences from the time of birth are helping them to hone the early literacy skills they need to become lifelong readers. This doesn’t mean that every day needs to feel like a school day. Rather, children learn when those around them talk, sing, play and read with them during the most mundane of activities. 

This is something I continually tell the caregivers who bring their children to the Littles programs at Anythink Brighton, designed for ages birth to 4 years old. 

Recently, the Littles program focused in on food with Little Chefs. With this program, I want to show caregivers that they can use everyday activities such as cooking to help their child develop early literacy skills. Each station features signs explaining how a particular activity enhances an early literacy skill. The playdough station encourages caregivers to help their child use the cookie cutters to make shapes. As they work together molding the dough, the caregiver talks to the child about texture, color and shapes. This act of talking to the child while they work teaches the child new words and sounds. By working with the dough, a child improves the fine motor skills needed later to be able to write. Another station has children following a recipe to make a snack mix. This includes counting out the cereal squares, teddy crackers, raisins and Cheerios. Caregivers are encouraged to let the children place each item in a snack bag, all the while talking through the process. At yet another station, caregivers help children follow a more in-depth recipe for oatmeal cookies. 

It’s so much fun watching all of the caregivers get truly involved in the activities with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Since I’m the one to clean, they aren’t afraid of making messes, freeing them to truly have fun with their little ones. This is especially true at my favorite station, where tarps are laid out on the floor with large bowls of flour, mixing spoons, and flour sifters. Fine motor skills are developed as the kids stir, dump and sift flour. Everyone becomes covered in the white dust and laughter ensues. Through this program, customers are able to experience cooking in a whole new way. Caregivers learn that they have the tools to be the most influential early literacy teacher in their child’s life, and that sharing those skills can be fun and entertaining. 

Send your feedback and questions to ithink@anythinklibraries.org