What is Little Books & Little Cooks?
For many children, academic difficulties begin before they start school. In a national survey, teachers reported that 35 percent of kindergarten children were not ready for school. Poor academic skills in the early years place children at risk, often leading to grade retention, school failure and dropout, delinquency and running away, as well as unemployment and underemployment in adulthood. Children gain critical school readiness skills by engaging in real-life, meaningful activities. Cooking with parents is one educational activity that can help to increase children’s abilities in math, science, reading, language, motor development and social skills in a meaningful and appealing way.
Extension’s Little Books & Little Cooks Program, which began in 2012, offers Nevada’s Clark, Washoe and Lincoln County preschool children and their parents the chance to cook and read stories together. Extension provides the books, recipes and cooking instructions. This 7-week series is designed to promote healthy dietary patterns among preschool aged children through parent-child interaction and combining literacy with hands-on cooking activities. The program aims to increase parent knowledge on nutrition and assist in positive family interaction.
Parents reported the following on pre- and post-tests:
- Reading more books about healthy eating and nutrition after attending the program
- Cooking more often with their children after attending the program
- Increasing frequency of physical activity for themselves and their children
- Knowing how to create healthy meals from the five food groups
- Being more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables after attending the program
- Having their children help prepare food more often at home
- Having their children try new and unfamiliar foods at home
- Feeling more confident interacting with their child at home
- Feeling that their child was more confident about using cooking equipment during cooking
- Being more likely to continue using what they learned in the program in the future
Children significantly improved their cooking skills in the following areas:
- Washing hands for 20 seconds before cooking/eating
- Measuring ingredients and using measuring spoons/cups
- Peeling fresh produce
- Cutting foods with plastic/dull knives
- Grating cheese and vegetables
- Stirring ingredients
- Arranging food on a plate
- Following steps from the recipe
- Cleaning up after cooking
- Setting table/serving foods
- Clearing table
- Being more likely to try new foods
Parents improved in the following areas:
- Decreasing negative parent-child interaction during cooking
- Improving positive parent-child interactions (e.g. praise and physical affection)
- Encouraging children to taste all foods more often and not pushing children to eat everything on the plates
What do we do?
- The parenting program includes parents and preschool aged children and takes place once a week for seven weeks.
- During each weekly class, families participate in nutrition-based learning, reading and cooking activities.
- Families receive free materials and books to complete additional enrichment activities at home.
For other Extension-led Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) programs in Nevada for pre-k children and their parents, visit Healthy Kids, Early Start.
For Clark County residents, Little Books & Little Cooks is one of many parenting programs and workshops available for families with young children. For more information, visit Partners in Parenting's full website. The Little Books & Little Cooks program is kindly supported by the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education.
Upcoming programs and events: