With winter here, I often turn to a soothing bowl of vegetable soup. In addition to being a healthy, hearty and comforting meal, soup can also provide a great deal of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) learning for children at home. Children so often ask us "Why?" By listening with intention and building on their natural curiosities, you allow for them to develop valuable skills that are essential life skills."
Cooking provides a wonderful platform to engage in conversations that build vocabulary around science and math, and it also provides opportunity for developing inquiry in young children.
Research supports the idea that providing engaging hands-on environments is essential to young children’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. In order for children to reach their potential, an environment allowing them to question, discover, and apply the knowledge they actively acquire is essential.
The soup is on and the tips below will help you foster inquiry in the kitchen, while feeding your children’s bodies a healthy and filling meal.
Supplies: a favorite vegetable soup recipe, a variety of vegetables, vegetable stock, seasoning, water, child-safe knives, cutting boards, measuring cups, a large spoon or ladle, a soup pot and a way to heat your soup.
Plan a trip to the grocery store. Invite your child to observe and explore seasonal vegetables. Talk about the recipe and choose vegetables accordingly. Children will learn more from this activity when using unprocessed vegetables.
Back in the kitchen, gather the recipe, soup pot, measuring cups and utensils, and let the learning begin!
Break down the activities and allow children to help based on ability. Engage them in preparations that may include shucking corn, removing peas from the pods, peeling cabbage leaves, scrubbing potatoes and inspecting the leaf and stem while cleaning carrots prior to cooking.
Five Simple Connections to STEAM
Science – Through this activity, children will become early scientists as they compare and contrast how the texture of vegetables changes throughout the cooking process. They may also research and explore where vegetables come from.
Technology – Ask these questions: "How does heat cook soup?" "How will you time the cooking?" "How do you keep veggies fresh before cooking?"
Have the children think of the everyday uses of technology that help make soup. In addition, have the children come up with different ways they might cook the soup if they didn’t have a stove.
Engineering – Using a knife can promote an early engineering experience of a simple machine, such a wedge. The discussion around the process of cooking is a wonderful form of engaging engineering skills.
Art – Follow your soup-making process by reading a story. Our favorite is the story of Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. Invite children to draw a picture of their favorite part of making homemade soup.
Math - Through cutting vegetables, children may explore fractions or simply counting and measuring. Adding spices and measuring the vegetable stock also provide opportunities for children to begin to understand the properties of measurement.
‘Stock’ Up on Inquiry
Some questions to ask while cooking
– Did you notice what is inside the pea when you opened the pod? How many peas did you have in your pod? I wonder how peas grow?
– Did you notice the outside of the corn? Why did we shuck the corn?
– I wonder what is at the top of the carrot? How do you think carrots grow?
– How do the vegetables feel to touch after being cooked in the vegetable stock and water? I wonder why they feel so different?
– What were the steps we took to create the soup? What could we do differently next time we make our soup?
Allison Wilson is the Director of Curriculum and Innovation at Stratford School, a leading independent private school. She has 15 years of experience in the early-childhood sector through teaching, school leadership, teacher training and innovative curriculum development.