The Importance of Cooking with Kids

Last week, I had the pleasure of baking some Filipino bread rolls, called Pandesal, with Evie’s transitional kindergarten class.  The whole experience is so important for my family and I not only to share some of our culture with her school, but also to aid in her development.

I have this memory of being in the second grade and bringing a Filipino steamed pork bun to school that I tell people often.  Kid’s can be mean when they don’t understand, and I was ridiculed for bringing such a thing to lunch.  Once home, I asked my mom to pack me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because I was so mortified to bring more Filipino food.

Years later, my daughter is in school and I am making her lunches.  I am pleased to say her school encourages having various fare, encouraging families to share their culture to give students a sense of inclusion.  I’ve actually been there previously to teach how to make veggie lumpia (egg roll) and turon (a Filipino desert egg roll made with jackfruit and a type of plantain banana).  This year, my husband joined me to help teach the kids how to make pandesal, one of Evie’s favorite recipes.

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Photos from last year’s turon-making class.

Evie has been cooking with us for a couple years now, and I have to admit that I didn’t really understand how important it was for her development at first.  I’ve learned a couple things along the way to encourage her and her learning and still make it fun.  At this age (she’s 4 1/2 years old), she starts putting together some pretty big concepts in cooking, and it was on display in her classroom.  It was all so impressive, and I really wanted to share them.


After a couple years of helping mom in the kitchen, and making these bread rolls almost all year, she was practically a professional at this.  She read the ingredients from the recipe to her classmates and showed them how to do each step.  Evie’s self esteem was through the roof, and know this is just going to translate to her future self when she is self-reliant.  She will be that teenager who can make herself a snack and that young adult who can cook for herself.  I saw an independent child who was growing and not just the little tot who was insisting, “I can do this, I can do that” but still required help.

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Cracking eggs is still something I get nervous about tasking, but they did great.


Sometimes, I worry that I will turn out like a “tiger-mom” when I talk about how stuff she does can relate back to some kind of book-smart education.  I like when a skill is hidden in fun activities.  Did she know she was practicing her math when counting how many cups of flour or measuring out specific volumes of ingredients?  Nope.

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She once added scoops of salt to a couple of scrambled eggs, and we still cooked it so she could taste the result.  She was pretty careful with the salt after that.  With these rolls, her whole class got to see what yeast does to the dough and was amazed by the rise it caused.  What they understood from the actual science of it is yet to be discovered, but I can say that at least they were exposed to some concepts.

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Rolling the balls of dough was definitely more fun than mixing the ingredients and a lot of kids came to assist in that part.  Evie showed them how to do it and explained how much dough, how sticky the dough is, how to roll it in your hands, and where to place them when you were ready to move on.  The kids all grabbed some dough and started.  Then I started getting asked: is this big enough, can I make it teeny tiny, how do I know if this is done?  The fact that Evie had these key instructions was impressive enough, but to hear the type of questions they had when they were in the act is also so notable.  They absorbed the information and their little heads were processing.  They weren’t shy to ask a question or interrogate the process further.  They were developing their social skills and language development.

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Who doesn’t like getting a little messy every now and then?  Certainly a group of four year olds.  Play has a way to develop problem solving and motor skills, but sensory play (squishing the dough, smelling the ingredients) does a lot more.  From cognitive development, building memory, and even calming anxiousness, being able to use senses in play is important.  Most importantly, it’s playing with them, cooking with Evie has given me so many funny memories in the kitchen.


The difference from last year’s class to this year’s class was hard to miss.  Little ones like to cook and learn, and I was almost just there to supervise and take photos.  They enjoyed being able to make it themselves almost as much as being able to eat it.


  • I like to keep some things on the counter with me and have a separate are for her, it keeps her from adding too much before it’s time or jumping ahead in the recipe.
  • Some tools are better for kids than others: a hand-held crinkle cut knife (like this one) is a lot safer than handing your kid the kitchen knife but still gives them a feeling of cutting things like veggies and fruit effectively.
  • Using a much larger bowl than what is needed will save on cleanup time.  Mixing can get messy.  I’ve also used a bowl with a pour spout and one with a rubber base for the same reasons.
  • They want to do everything, but sometimes they can’t.  Evie will try to hold a full gallon of milk and pour it into a measuring cup, but it usually ends up with milk all over the floor.  Keep an eye out for the things that will still be difficult for them.
  • Things take a long time to do, like chopping, so I’ll be sure to have all the ingredients ready and waiting before starting the actual recipe.

If you are interested in making pandesal with your little one, I have our recipe (with a printable PDF version) posted here:

Sharing Daddy Daughter Pandesal


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