Cooking with Kids: Popcorn and a Hidden Fractions Lesson

October 20, 2019

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My husband took both boys to a bowling party on Saturday so my daughter and I were home alone – a rare occurrence in our house. It was a rainy, chilly day so after a few games of UNO we curled up on the couch and read some of our favorite Halloween books.  We ended with my favorite – Popcorn!


We both love this book and were laughing about what it would be like if our house were filled with popcorn and we had to eat our way out.  So, of course, we decided to make some popcorn.  If the boys were going to get cake we deserved a treat too.  She looked through one of her cookbooks and found a recipe for cheesy popcorn.  So, we did something I’ve never done before – We made real popcorn on the stove!

I was surprised – it was so much easier than I ever imagined. Plus, only having one kid with me I was able to let her do more.  I could supervise her more closely and allow her to use the stove.

Measuring Popcorn and Fractions

First, she measured the popcorn kernels. 

We needed a half cup of kernels – so this gave us an opportunity to talk about fractions.  I love practical applications of math. Sometimes the concepts are so easy (even a five-year old can understand) but we make them complicated when we teach from a math book.  I drew a circle, calling it a pie and we divided it in half, then quarters, eighths and sixteenths.  She looked at me like I was a moron and told me she learned that in piano forever ago.  Here I thought I had a teachable moment!

So Much Fun to Watch Popcorn Pop!

I heated the oil in the pan and she poured in the kernels.  We waited a few minutes and nothing happened.  And then all of a sudden, everything started popping. 

She thought this was hilarious – She was laughing so hard.  It was one of those moments so full of joy.  It made the whole messy situation worth it.  I covered the pot and shook the pan on the heat for a couple minutes until the popping slowed down. When we lifted the lid, we had a pot full of popcorn.  I’ll admit – even I was a little surprised it actually worked.  I was envisioning a burnt mess and ruined pot.

popcorn in pot

The popcorn was amazingly delicious straight from the pot – probably from all that oil! But, we decided we were going to flavor our popcorn.  I was kind of surprised – she picked parmesan flavored popcorn instead of the sweet options.  But I am all over that savory buttery popcorn.

Cheesy Parmesan Popcorn

I let her cut the butter and even stir it on the stove while it was melting.

stirring the pot

  We measured out the parmesan cheese and added it to the melted butter.  All we had to do was pour it over the popcorn and stir.  It really was quite good.  We probably should have used grated cheese instead of shredded, but the clumps of buttery parmesan were amazing on their own too.

My daughter was so proud of her popcorn and would have eaten the whole giant bowl if I let her.

Planting a Popcorn Tree

It was so cute – While she was eating I watched her saving all the un-popped kernels on the side.  I asked her what she was going to do with them.  “Plant them”.  So, when our snack was over, we headed out to the backyard with shovels and planted popcorn seeds.  I’ll let you know if “popcorn trees” grow next spring!

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