How to teach the curriculum through cooking

By Amanda Grant, in association with BBC Bitesize

Getting kids to help you cook is a great way to teach them Key Stage 2 English, maths, science, nutrition and French skills, straight from the curriculum. They won’t even realise they’re learning at the same time as having fun!

Of course, they'll also learn how to cook and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Show them what different fruits and vegetables look like and discuss how they’re grown and why they’re good for us.

We've included links to the recipes on BBC Food and to BBC Bitesize, a great resource for finding out more about the skills they've been learning.

When kids divide biscuit dough into batches they'll learn about simple fractions.

Learn fractions while making biscuits

Kids don’t all love learning about fractions and division, but most of them enjoy eating biscuits. Get them excited about these Key Stage 2 maths topics by weaving them into this chocolate chip biscuit recipe.

Once they’ve weighed and measured the ingredients, boosting their confidence with numbers, they can divide the biscuit dough into pieces. This recipe makes 24 biscuits, so the dough can easily be divided to make fewer or more cookies.

Once the biscuits are baked, you can chat about adding and subtracting fractions. So if I have 4 biscuits (4/24) and you have 4 biscuits, how many of the biscuits do we both have (8/24) and is there a way of making that fraction smaller (1/3)? Then if you gave 2 of your biscuits to a friend, how would you work out the new fraction (6/24 > 1/4)?

This will help them remember basic principles of Key Stage 2 – plus they get to enjoy 1/24 of the biscuits afterwards!

Learn ratios while making pancakes

A basic pancake recipe uses a golden ratio of ingredients – for every 100g of flour, you need 2 eggs and 300ml of milk. This makes this recipe ideal for helping to teach kids how ratios work. Explain that if the flour and milk are a 1:3 ratio, what is the ratio of flour to eggs (1:2)?

You could also use this opportunity to introduce kids to percentages. For instance, what percentage of the total mixture is flour?

Further learning: When weighing and measuring ingredients, children can learn that 100ml of milk doesn’t weigh the same as 100g of flour. Together, you can weigh different liquids measured out at 100ml, to see how volume doesn't equal weight.

Learn about solids and liquids while making ice cream

The principles of freezing and melting, and turning solids into liquids and then gases, are included in the Key Stage 2 curriculum and can be taught by making a simple ice cream.

Before freezing the mixture, heat a little of it (without the berries) until it evaporates. Explain that heating changes the liquid into a gas via a process called evaporation.

When you freeze the mixture explain that liquids can solidify when you apply cold temperatures to them. Tell them that water freezes at 0 degrees celcius, and that different liquids have different freezing points.

When the ice cream is ready to eat, remove a spoonful from the tub and allow it to melt. Explain why ice cream melts when it comes out of the freezer, relating it back to its state before it was frozen.

Further learning: you can also show children that when a liquid evaporates into gas, the mixture can be turned back into a liquid through cooling. This is called condensation. To do this, you can place a ruler over a pan of liquid that is turning into a gas (boiling) at an angle and place a cup at the bottom of the ruler; the liquid will condense into the cup.

Learn about healthy eating while making tacos

A veg-packed taco is a well-balanced dish and the perfect opportunity to talk about the 4 key food groups we need for a healthy diet: carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and fibre. As kids help you assemble these tacos, you can link your cooking back to the Key Stage curriculum on eating a balanced diet.

Tell them which different foods they could swap in from each of the food groups. For instance, instead of beans, they could swap in chicken, beef, fish or tofu for protein; instead of taco shells, they could have rice, pasta or lentils for carbohydrate. Explain that the fats in some foods, like the avocado in these tacos, are healthier than others. You can also talk about the importance of eating lots of different coloured veg, including the sweetcorn and peas in this recipe. While you’re waiting for the tacos to cook, you can watch the films on BBC Bitesize about eating a balanced diet!

Learn English skills while writing a recipe

Writing a recipe, ordering ingredients and steps, is a great way to learn Key Stage 2 instruction writing skills. Explain to your kids that a recipe is, at heart, a set of precise, chronological instructions.

Offer children different types of bread, such as wholemeal wraps and a seeded loaf. Give them ingredients to make healthy fillings, for instance tinned tuna or sweetcorn, boiled egg, low-fat mayonnaise, hummus, grated carrot, sliced spring onions or tomatoes, cooked chicken or ham, and watercress. Ask them to choose two or three that they think will work together and build their own sandwich, weighing and measuring the amounts they’re using and writing them down.

Encourage the children to describe the ingredients using as many adjectives as they can: 'fresh' tomatoes, 'creamy' mayo, 'zingy' spring onions and 'crunchy' sweetcorn. Ask them to write down how to assemble their sandwich in a clear order, using bossy nouns such as 'pour' and 'stir'. Explain that the more detail they write down, the easier the instructions will be to follow next time. It's great for them to follow their own recipe to check they haven't missed anything out.

Click here to find a sandwich recipe kids can use as a model.

Learn French while making a salad

Most adults are familiar with using some French words to describe foods – baguettes, brioche, gateaux, courgette – and cooking is a fun way to learn vocabulary and grammar for Key Stage 2 French. Click here for a green salad recipe.

As you make this salad, you can talk about the French names for each ingredient. Explain how each French noun is either masculine, feminine or plural. 'Salade' is a feminine noun, so it would be called 'la' salade. Other ingredients include the plural, for example 'les herbes' (herbs), or the masculine, for example 'le vinaigre' (vinegar), or a noun beginning with a vowel, for instance 'l’ail' (garlic). Explain that because the colour green has an e on the end of the French word (‘verte’), which means you pronounce the ‘t’.

As you make the salad, you can ask what other French words the kids can think of – especially foods that would go well in this salad, such as lardons, saucisses or croutons. After cooking, expand your discussion into other English words that come from the French, such as café and cinema.