For over one year, the Food Network has stirred our grandchild’s imagination in astounding ways. She is a devoted fan of several cooks, quoting them frequently as she goes about her toy kitchen, raiding her mom’s kitchen for pots and spatulas, and rattling pots and pans. She knows a competition from a demonstration, and speaks confidently, using such words a cinnamon, vanilla extract and cumin. And she arises in the morning wondering what to cook for dinner, and her nap anxious to see what Sunny and “Contessa Barefoot ” have planned. The Food Network is a powerful education tool – perhaps stronger than PBS’ early learning line-up.
This morning we watched Super Why and a charming but complicated regimen of finding a word to solve a problem – it took thirty minutes; retelling the fairy tale, “Jack in the Beanstalk. The PBS writers ignored the lessons in the fairytale, and inserted characters and situations to solve a mystery the writers invented to find one missing word. Our granddaughter never referred to the method or the message for the rest of the day.
We then watched cooking shows; throughout the day, she used words and imitated instructions the TV cooks modeled. She knew the drama on Iron Chef and wondered how much time was left in the competition. During bath time, the bubbles became her kitchen, the toys, her tools and the memory of so many cooking lessons her recipes. For twenty minutes she explained what she was adding, how she mixing or stirring, and for whom she was preparing her meal.
In this little child’s life, the example of real people doing work they love has been a powerful motivator and great teacher. Giada, Bobby Flay, Paula Dean and Rachel Ray among others are engaging the heart and mind of a little child and if PBS educators are wise they might reconsider how they present what they present.