Taking moments like family dinner as opportunities to stay engaged with your child’s education, and keep them learning outside the classroom, may be easier than you think.

With all the measuring, counting, dividing and simple science that goes into cooking – opportunities for your child to learn while preparing the family meal are endless. Expect More Arizona is encouraging families to turn simple moments like cooking into teaching and learning opportunities.

Cooking involves math skills, especially fractions. One great way to help your child understand how to add fractions is to figure new combinations to reach the same measurement. For example, if you need one cup of flour, ask your child to help you make one cup, only using smaller measuring cups. There are a number of combinations that can make one cup from two half cups to four one-quarter cups and more. Now, you’re adding fractions.

If you have younger children that are not yet ready for fractions, have them count out loud as you add any certain number of measurements to a recipe. You can also work on literacy skills by asking your child to read a recipe aloud to you as you cook. Or, ask your child to identify ingredients to hand you by asking for them by shape or color. So, if you need an onion, ask for something round. When slicing an apple, ask your child what color it is.

As demonstrated on Sonoran Living by Jon-Paul Hutchins, Executive Chef at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, any type of recipe can create a learning opportunity for your child. To see the Watermelon Salad recipe Chef Hutchins prepared for viewers, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

Cooking also offers the opportunity to talk to your child about culture and geography. It’s easy to incorporate learning about different countries and cultures as you try new recipes For example, if you are making spaghetti and meatballs, look at a map and find Italy, and look on the internet to learn about the culture and other dishes they serve. You can also learn a little history, too. For example, did you know that the Chinese are on record as having eaten pasta as early as 5,000 B.C.? And, Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing spaghetti to America after trying it on a trip to France?

Another big topic when cooking with kids is, of course, nutrition. Take the opportunity when you are cooking with fruits and veggies to make it more interesting by learning more about their nutritional value and the science of how they grow. For example, ask your child “where does a carrot grow?” (In the ground) and, “what about lemons?” (Tree). You can even start your own garden at home, and begin to incorporate the fruits and vegetables you grow into your cooking. Now, you’re eating more fruits and vegetables while learning horticulture!

Conversations about learning while in the kitchen are also great opportunities to help children identify their interests for potential career paths. Are they most interested in the creativity of food? Or the science of cooking? Or, do they like the challenges of measuring ingredients and making conversions?

For more ways for parents turn turn every day moments into learning opportunities, click here.

Watermelon & Mache Salad
(as seen in the video above)

Serves 4

2 ounces Goat Cheese
¼ cup Kalamata olives
½ red onion sliced
1 bunch mint
4 slices watermelon
1 bunch Mache lettuce
1 bunch Arugula

1 cup red wine vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon
1 teaspoon shallots minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and black pepper

Combine Dijon, Shallots and vinegar. Slowly whisk in oil. Adjust seasoning.

To Assemble: Place a slice of watermelon on a chilled plate, toss a few leaves of mache, arugula, red onion and mint with a tablespoon of vinaigrette and mound on the watermelon. Scatter with goat cheese and olives. Enjoy.