Whether you’ve been homeschooling for years, or just recently made the shift, the learning possibilities can extend far beyond reading and arithmetic. Have you thought about adding a homeschool cooking curriculum to the agenda?
In my humble opinion, hands-on life skills not only provide practical knowledge and self-sufficiency but also bring an element of fun and excitement to your child’s day.
Even if you believe in the importance of teaching your kids to cook, adding one more “to-do” can seem like too much — I get it! But, I admit that it wasn’t until our family added some formal structure around learning to cook that it actually happened in a methodical way.
Besides, putting together a cooking curriculum is also a great way to incorporate subjects like reading, math, and science into a practical skill set.
In this article, we’ll look at how to put together your own homeschool cooking curriculum and plenty of free resources for putting together your own kids cooking lesson plans. I’ve also compiled a list of the best online kids cooking classes that will engage your kids from preschool through high school.
How to put together your own homeschool cooking curriculum
You may be nodding in agreement, saying, “This all sounds good.”
And also asking yourself, “But where in the world do I start to put together a homeschool cooking curriculum?”
While it can sound overwhelming, let’s break it into three easy steps. Determine your why, your what, and your how.
1. Why? Determining your homeschool cooking objectives
It’s always helpful to start with your end goals in mind. What do you hope your kids will take away from time in the kitchen?
Cooking curriculum for middle school students may have different objectives than for preschoolers. Goals could include:
- Becoming self-sufficient in the kitchen → Being able to safely navigate the space and prepare nourishing meals leads to greater independence and overall health.
- Gaining a greater connection to real food → Exploring whole foods, where they come from, and how to use them to build balanced meals provides a healthy connection for kids.
- Developing pure culinary skills → Proficiency and competence with kitchen tools, flavor profiles, and cooking techniques opens up new possibilities for creative expression and future professions.
- A creative medium for applying math, reading, and science → Cooking offers practice with numbers, letters, and following instructions. It is also a platform for diving into history, culture, biology, chemistry, and even geography!
2. What? Choose the cooking activities
Once you establish your objectives, it’s time to consider what you will do to reach those objectives. When planning activities to fit into your curriculum, consider:
- What activities are age-appropriate? → What level of experience do your children already have when it comes to cooking? From emphasizing the exploration of the five senses at the preschool level to cooking the family meal at the middle and high-school level, we always want to keep everyone safe and successful for a positive experience.
- Progression from simple to complex → Starting with basic skills and moving to more complex tasks naturally allows for building competence. Consider what skills are necessary to reach the final objective and work backwards until you determine a good starting point.
Here are some possible activities to include, considering your child’s interests:
- 5 – sense exploration
- Themes around seasonal foods or cultural foods
- Creating a cooking lab
- Meal planning for the family
- Using recipes to build your lessons around
- Writing a recipe book
3. How? Decide on the process
How you execute your homeschool cooking curriculum is just as important as what you want to teach. My primary advice — set realistic expectations, for yourself and your kids.
It’s easy (at least for me) to get excited and over-ambitious. But, if you set your expectations too high there’s more risk of walking away disappointed, or failing to follow through. There’s always room for additional material down the road.
- Determine a time frame → How long will your cooking curriculum run?
- Frequency of lessons and practice → How often each week will you include your cooking curriculum?
- What will each lesson look like? → Maybe your kids cooking lesson plans will have a brief intro (background content), preparation, actual cooking or exploring food, and a reflection piece.
- Will there be a final critique, exam, or celebration? → It’s nice for you and your kids to have closure. How will they show off their newly acquired skills?
Free homeschool cooking curriculum resources
We are fortunate today to have such great resources at our fingertips to help us learn and teach just about anything — and cooking is no exception. Here are some of my favorite homeschool cooking curriculum resources for free.
Teaching nutrition to kids
I believe that part of cooking is also understanding and appreciating nutrition and how food can support healthy bodies. Topics to consider incorporating in your homeschool cooking curriculum could be:
- Eating the rainbow — choosing vegetables and fruits from each color of the rainbow.
- Real food versus processed food — what’s the difference and what are the health benefits of choosing real foods?
- Macronutrients — what are they, why are they important, and what foods are good sources of each?
- Micronutrients — what are they, why are they important, and what foods are good sources of each?
- Building a winning plate — how to put together nutrient dense meals.
Here are some of my favorite online resources you may find helpful for teaching nutrition to kids:
- Real Food for Kids: Healthy Nutrition for Growing Bodies and Minds
- Connect Kids with Real Food and Teach Them How to Eat Healthy (Kids Cook Real Food)
- How to Talk to Kids about Real Food (100 Days of Real Food)
- Macronutrients (Healthy-Kids)
- How to Explain Basic Nutrition Concepts (Eat Right Pro)
- 37 Fun & Educational Nutrition Activities for Kids
- Nutrition Lesson Plans & Tools for Teaching (Super Healthy Kids)
- Teaching Nutrition to Kids: Starting Young for a Healthy Lifestyle
Kitchen skills for kids
Teaching basic kitchen skills help provide a safe space and a strong foundation to build upon year after year.
Once again, make sure to consider your child’s age and current kitchen competence when considering where to start and what they are capable of. It’s always better to slow down and review the basics than skip key developmental skills.
Check out these great resources to help you write your own curriculum:
- Kitchen Safety for Kids: 15 Smart Tips
- Cooking with Toddlers: Sensory Learning in the Kitchen
- The Basic Cooking Skills You Need to Teach Your Kids (The Secret Life of Homeschoolers)
- 10 Cooking Skills Every Kid Should Know Before They Leave the Nest (Mom’s Kitchen Handbook)
- Life Skills as High School Electives: Cooking Basics for Teens (Starts at Eight)
- Learn How to Cook: Every Amateur Chef Should Know These Crucial Skills (My Domaine)
- 25 Fun (and safe) Kitchen Tools for Kids
Recipe resources for a homeschool cooking curriculum
Now it’s time to gather the recipes you want to use to give your kids the hands-on experience of a homeschool cooking curriculum. Here are some of the books, websites, and other materials you may find helpful.
Cookbooks for kids
Cookbooks don’t have to be written for kids to be used in a kid’s curriculum, but they may captivate their attention.
Here are some favorites that can be found on Amazon:
- The Forest Feast for Kids (available on Amazon here)
- Awesome Kitchen Science Experiments for Kids (available on Amazon here)
- Chef Junior (available on Amazon here)
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs (available on Amazon here)
- MasterChef Junior Cookbook (available on Amazon here)
- Cooking Class Global Feast! 44 Recipes that Celebrate the World’s Cultures (available on Amazon here)
In addition, check out my book Kids in the Kitchen for recipes designed to give kids age appropriate experience.
Recipe blogs for healthy homeschool cooking
Of course there are fabulous recipes all over the internet today. Here are a few to get you started:
- Live Simply
- Scratch Mommy
- Nourished Kitchen
- Well Nourished
- 100 Days of Real Food
- The Things We’ll Make
- Primal Peak
Don’t underestimate the value of cookbooks you already have, magazines around the house, and even flyers that come in the mail with the occasional recipe.
Even if the recipe doesn’t suit all your needs, your kids can learn how to make adjustments — this in and of itself is a great skill!
Kids cooking classes: Done-for-you cooking curriculum
Having some, or all, of the cooking content put together for you, can take a little of the overwhelm away. Here are a handful of online cooking classes for kids with top-notch content.
Kids Cook Real Food
Kids Cook Real Food is an online cooking course that teaches beginner to advanced kitchen skills for building healthy habits. The course offers an organized skill progression with practice opportunities at three different levels, with much of the planning and thinking done for you!
It’s perfect for preschoolers through middle school-aged kids. You can read a detailed review of the course here, with my family’s great experience using Kids Cook Real Food.
This cooking club for kids is full of monthly fun. With online community access and activities, you’ll also receive seasonal, global, and holiday themed recipes and cooking projects in the mail.
Designed for kids ages 4 – 14, Raddish Kids will help cultivate culinary curiosity and independence.
Eat 2 Explore
Eat 2 Explore is a family cooking kit that allows you and your kids to tap into cultural cuisine from around the World in your own kitchen. Each monthly explorer box (sent to your doorstep) includes recipes, essential spices, shopping lists, educational activity sheets, fun cooking tools, and global collectibles.
Recommended for kids 5 years and older.
Your kids will learn so much more than cooking at Food School — planting, sprouting, nutrition, food culture, food history, grocery shopping skills, how to read a recipe, and beyond.
This after school program has more virtual video opportunities given the current times. Check it out if you have kids between the ages of 3 and 14.
The Kids’ Table
The Kids’ Table offers weekly virtual cooking classes for ages 2 to 14. The format is interactive Zoom lessons with skilled instructors and age-appropriate tasks.
Sign up for Tots, Kids, or Teens Can Cook and engage your child in making fun, delicious recipes they’re excited to create and eat.
Rooks to Cooks
Rooks to Cooks is a live virtual culinary classroom. Limited to 8 students per Zoom class, kids will be able to interact with the Chef and their peers.
All required kitchen tools and ingredients are provided in advance for adequate preparation and full participation.
Real Food 4 Kids
With all sorts of downloadable recipes and kid-led instructional videos, Real Food 4 Kids is a great go-at-your-own-pace option.
Applying math, science, and art to hands-on learning is emphasized in this online cooking school for kids between 5 to 18. It’s perfect for elementary ages and even cooking curriculum for high school students.
Food Literacy Center
Food Literacy Center is a nonprofit on a mission to teach children about cooking, nutrition, and gardening. There is a free online curriculum through the website and Facebook Live with twelve lessons — well-thought out lesson plans included!
Tiny Chefs offers a variety of online cooking series. Each series includes 10 recipes with instructional videos, shopping lists, lesson plans, and activities.
Geared towards ages 3 to 12, Tiny Chefs has single student and family plans, all at your own pace.
Ready to make cooking part of your homeschool plans?
Now you are ready to follow through with making cooking part of your homeschool plans. You have the steps, the resources, and the motivation to put into action.
For more guidance and a helpful resource, be sure to check out my book, Kids in the Kitchen: a roadmap to better health, stronger relationships, and greater confidence.