For the Bigger Kids
Make your child Chief Egg Cracker. Author Mollie Katzen suggests letting kids break an egg over a pie plate to contain any drips. Show your child how to give a good hard thwack with a spoon. Have a damp paper towel at the ready as little kids tend not to like getting sticky egg white on their hands (and raw eggs can contain salmonella, so you want to keep your child's hands clean as he works). Transfer each egg into another bowl before breaking the next one, to avoid contaminating the entire batch with a rotten one or a wayward shell.
Count On It
Whatever you're cookin' up, there are bound to be fractions ("How many quarter-cups does it take to fill a one-cup measure?"), simple calculations ("If we use four eggs, how many will we have left?"), and compare and contrasts ("Which is heavier -- the sugar or the flour?"). Another important math skill: creating and replicating patterns. Hello, kabobs! Skewers can be made with fruit, vegetables, cooked meat, cheese. And threading builds fine motor skills (use coffee stirrers to make this safe for all ages).
The Whys Have It
For your budding scientist, the kitchen is a lab where wild chemical interactions result in more than dinner. It's easy to take it all for granted, but once you start posing questions, so will your child. How does the microwave work so quickly? Why does the soup "move" when it's cooking and stand still when it's cold? How come you can smell cookies baking all the way upstairs? Why indeed! Answers to these and other fascinating questions can be found at the kid- (and mom-) friendly Web site exploratorium.edu/cooking.
Your kitchen is a hands-on reading buffet. Challenge your child to pick out ingredients from the pantry: "Quick, find me something that begins with the letter P." Or when she brings you a box of spaghetti have her point out the word pasta. All the while, she's honing her prereading skills, and you have someone to fetch everything you need to get dinner on the table.