Thursday, 18 January 2018



Every time there was a birthday or any other special occasion at my mother's home, one of my nieces used to surprise her with a delicious cake. 
What made it further special was the fact that it was made by her totally on her own without the help of any elder in the house!
I thought this was the effect of her grandparents staying with her, her house full of foodies who loved to cook as well as taste different types of food. I knew her grandma was fond of watching cookery shows so I thought it would be one more reason for the kid's interest in cooking. I was wrong! The real reason behind the kid's interest in cooking was maybe the way her nursery school  curriculum had included activities revolving around food production and cooking. They had thought of teaching life skills through simple food activities to the tiny tots. 
They wanted children to know how food was grown, how it was supplied from farms to markets near their homes and finally how food was cooked and presented on their dining tables.

Rationale behind teaching life skills through simple food activities

     1.       Children need to become conscious of basic needs of human beings and how they are satisfied. Once they know how to grow their favourite fruit/ vegetable, they may recognise the effort needed for the whole process.
    2.       Once they recognize the effort, they may start to appreciate and contribute to the process of growing food and those who are involved in the process of food production.
     3.       This may lead to social bonhomie as these tiny tots may tomorrow take part in the process of food production.
    4.       In this way, they may become better citizens of future times and help in the race to save the planet.
5  5.    In some cultures, the entry to kitchen is generally restricted to a particular gender, so the excluded gender doesn't even know how much effort is put in making a simple meal.
6  6.     In some of the affluent households, a separate domestic staff cooks for the family due to which the elders in the family do not spend time with their children outside the bedrooms/TV halls. So practically no time is spend in the kitchen with the children.

Principles used for teaching life skills through simple food activities

    1.       Children like to imitate the actions of elders. They are always eager to behave like their parents, teachers and/or older siblings. One can make them aware of the behaviour of a responsible elder with the help of role-playing.
     2.       Children learn the most when they do things themselves. If they are allowed to touch, feel, taste and use any thing they start to understand that thing/skill much better than when they are taught indirectly.
     3.    Children love to explore and experience the real world themselves rather than just sit and read about it in textbooks.
   4.    Children learn through observation. They deduce simple conclusions through their own observations and experiments.

Ideas for teaching life skills through simple food activities

      1.      Visit to the Farm: Children are very excited to leave the classrooms and go to visit the outdoors. Take them to a small garden or if possible a nearby farm. Show them how plants are grown from small seedlings into fruit/vegetable bearing plants/ trees. Teach them to dig a pit, water a plant, mow the lawn and pluck the ripe fruits. Ask them if they can identify the fruits/veggies by looking at the plants/ trees.
     Let them have a feel of walking in the farm and plucking a few of the veggies/fruits in their own baskets.  Help them to clean their collected fruits/veggies. If the farm is far away, take them for a whole day. The day can start with a walk around the farm with the farmers, a ride on the bullock cart, a date with the farm animals and then a stop at one of the corners to plant or pluck some fruits/veggies.  You can ask them to have their lunch in the farm itself and follow it with a short nap under a banyan tree.
Life Skills acquired: Staying together in groups, following elders’ instructions, compassion and taking care of your surroundings.

        2.  Basket full of veggies: Now that children have come to know how their favourite fruits and veggies are grown, arrange for a farm fresh market in the classroom. Ask the children to dress up as their
      favourite farmers/ vegetable sellers and get some veggies and fruits in a basket. Tell them they will not buy anything especially for this market but get it from whatever is available in their mother’s kitchen. Invite the parents to come and attend the market. Tell the children that they are supposed to sell all the things available in their baskets. They are free to charge whatever they want as far as their prices are affordable. Tell them they can take tips from their parents. Also, once they sell their basket, they can go around and buy whatever they like from others. Make some Fake paper money and give it to all the veggie sellers before the market is open for parents. At the end of the class, ask all of them to come one by one and show you whatever they managed to sell and buy.
 Life Skills acquired: talking to strangers/unknown elders, decision-making, presentation skills, bargaining and denying

   3.     Sunshine sandwich: Now it’s time to turn a lazy Monday classroom to a bright and colourful
    kitchen. Tell the children to get along their favourite raw vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots or tomatoes. Provide them with a pair of bread slice/ Monaco biscuits or any other form of bread; some butter, jam or ketchup and/or nuts/raisins/dry fruits (consult their parents/ according to their preferences). Tell them to cut the edges of the bread slices and cut them into shapes of their choices such as triangles or circles. Help them to make their own sandwiches with sunshine smiles or any other design of their choice. Ask them to clear their tables, wash their hands and then share their sandwiches with their best friends.
 Life Skills acquired: cleanliness, decision-making and sharing

4.       Reuse the leftovers: Many times we find that when we bring some dry groceries from the market, they are totally crushed and can’t be eaten as a whole, for instance biscuits, cake slices, choco-chips, corn flakes and so on. Inform parents to save such items instead of consuming them. Decide and tell children to bring all such items to classroom on one of the Saturdays. Tell children to take out their dry crushed items. Give them a wet cake/ jam or chocolate syrup and mix these ingredients. Then ask them to roll the mixture into small balls. Then give them some dry fruits and desecrated coconut powder to decorate their balls with it. Then ask them to clear their tables and wash hands. Once they have cleared everything you can ask them to taste their own balls and take some of them back home for their loved ones.
Life Skills acquired: cleanliness, decision-making, sharing work and food

     5.       Empty your plate: Ask children whether they go out to eat sometimes with their parents? Most of the children will answer in affirmative. Ask them what do they think happens to the food they
order but leave on their plates? Introduce them to the concept of giving extra/ unwanted food to those who can’t afford to buy it. Keep telling them about the importance of food for some days before asking them to get their favourite food, be it junk food or any other traditional dish they like on a Saturday. Tell them that they need to eat their lunch and finish everything that is put in their plate/lunch box. Before they start eating, tell them that they need to be sure about whether they will be able to eat everything that is available in their plate/lunch box. If not then they need to keep aside that portion so that it can be eaten by other children who are poor or unable to buy food for them.
Life Skills acquired: respect for food, sharing work and food, respect for the less privileged

Not all children learn new knowledge and skills in the same manner. While some learn by seeing things, some others learn through doing things while some others learn through listening or writing things. Activities revolving around food items can seem to be interesting to all kinds of learners as food items are tempting for all of us. As someone has rightly said some of us eat to live while most of us live to eat! Whatever way we live we all love to eat when we are kids. 
Sadly, in many modern families, mothers complain about children being least interested in eating food. We can create interest in them about food by engaging them in simple activities revolving around food, its production, supply and consumption. And while we do so we can also inculcate some essential life skills through simple food activities.  Many times parents are little hesitant to let their kids enter kitchen at home. They feel children will litter the place and the output will lead to nothing but wastage of food items and space. But little do they realise that children learn the best when they do things themselves. 
So let them loosen up and learn some life skills through simple food activities.

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