STEM in the Kitchen Activities for Kids
Cooking is an essential STEM activity for kids.
This makes your home a learning center for kids when not in school. Whether restaurants are closed or not, you have to prepare food at home for the family, making you a chef.
Your kitchen can be a perfect place for kids to engage in fun STEM activities under your supervision. You only have to create time to get started.
The fact that cooking involves an experiment of mixing up various ingredients makes it fun for kids. They won’t just be hands-on, but also make things they can actually eat. At the same time, your kids will be learning.
Many cooking techniques in the kitchen are based on STEM-ready concepts for better outcomes. If you’re looking for ways to engage your kids in fun STEM activities in the kitchen, here’re a few science-backed cooking secrets to help you out:
1) Measuring liquids
This activity helps kids learn about viscosity, an important aspect of science and thus STEM education. It’s the thickness of fluids and thus resistance to flow. Liquids have lower viscosity, hence the need for measurements.
Fill a clear measuring cup with a cup of liquid. Let the cup stand on a table with a flat surface at eye level. The kids will view a dip on the surface of water, something that’s known as meniscus. It’s the point at which chemists take measurement of liquids.
You’ll notice that the liquid that once seemed more is actually more or not.
Liquids with more water can lower the viscosity of a batter. Therefore, you can easily spread a pancake batter or excess liquid. Make sure you get all the measurements right to ensure pancakes cook properly.
This processes teaches kids about emulsion.
Pour a cup of oil and 1/3 cup vinegar into a mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients to mix them.
Add the same amount of oil and vinegar in a separate bowl. Add 1 ½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the bowl and whisk the ingredients.
Transfer each mixture to a different jar and let your kids watch how the ingredients separate. The mustard mixture will take longer to separate than the initial mixture.
Ask the kids to shake the mixtures in the jars to mix them again. And, allow them to watch the separation again to determine the one that separates faster.
Mustards contain compounds known as emulsifiers. They’re both “lipophilic” (fat-loving) and “hydrophilic” (water-loving). Water molecules present in the vinegar hang out with fat molecules in the oil due to the mustard emulsifier compounds.
Emulsifiers are used in salads because they produce creamier vinaigrette.
3) Salting veggies to learn about osmosis
Assist your kids to chop tomatoes and place them in a mesh strainer over a bowl to collect the dripping fluids. Sprinkle salt over the tomatoes and let your kids watch water drip into the bowl as the tomatoes absorb salt.
Osmosis is the process through which water and other small molecules go through membranes. The tomato skin is the membrane in this experiment. The solution penetrates the tomato to create equal concentration for water to flow out and salt in.
The experiment teaches kids to salt vegetables before being added to the salad bowl. This ensures that you don’t end up with lots of water at the bottom of the bowl.
4) Dehydrating meat
This experiment supports Maillard reaction.
Let kids use plastic and a wire rack piece of the same size to tightly wrap a chunk of raw meat, each. Place them on a plate to dry. Make sure that everyone, including the kids wash their hands before and after handling raw meat.
Keep the two wrapped pieces of meat in the fridge for a minimum of two hours and sear them in a skillet or grill, separately. Unlike the piece wrapped in foil, the one in a wire rack will brown and become crispier, giving a richer taste and flavor.
When subjected to heat, protein and sugar molecules combine and reintegrate to develop new, more complex and unique flavors. This is the Maillard reaction, a process in which foods such as meat brown when grilled to give a rich taste.
Meat is better grilled after drying than when wet to allow the Maillard reaction to fully take effect, enabling flavor compounds to permeate it.
5) Weighing salt
Kids will learn about crystal formation in this STEM in the kitchen experiment. This food experiment helps kids learn science and math.
Fill half a cup with kosher salt and another half with table salt. Weight them on a food scale and observe them under a magnifier. Unlike table salt, the kosher salt crystals will look larger under observation and weigh less on the scale.
Dissolving water with salt minerals, also known as “solute,” evaporates to form salt crystals. Naturally, salt crystals develop a cube shape. However, the speed of evaporation determines whether the crystals grow smaller or bigger.
Larger crystals, unlike their smaller counterparts, need more volume to develop similar weight. A teaspoon of salt is equivalent to 1 ¼ teaspoons of kosher salt. The amount of salt used in food makes it edible or not.