The Benefits of Cooking with Kids
Now Harry is 18 months he is following me around everywhere. Some of the best advice I was given was to not exclude him from my daily routine but to find a way to involve him in the things that I do. This advice was invaluable, now, instead of having Harry whinge all day because I have to leave him to play on his own to get things done, he has become part of each task.
I do dabble a fair amount in the kitchen, are you surprised? So it was only a matter of time before I had a chair permanently set up so Harry could help me at the bench. One handed cooking is now a thing of the past, you see I have these two extra hands, which grab, smash and swipe at everything in sight. Rarely helpful, but always fun, cooking in the kitchen with a toddler is all about being safe and giving simple, pre-planned tasks to keep them occupied.
Why it’s worth involving your kids with cooking:
- Safety – introducing children from a young age about the safety risks in the kitchen is extremely important. Rather than not allowing your kids anywhere near the kitchen, you could take the time to explain hazards in a calm and safe way. These lessons of “hot” “sharp” and “gently” will become ingrained in your child’s mind and can avoid potential accidents in the future.
- Patience – There is no greater joy than watching your muffins rise, or eagerly waiting for the jelly to set in the fridge. Cooking requires a lot of patience, and you will be surprised how quickly children understand the concept once they have made something yummy from scratch.
- Time – This patience will translate in other areas of development too, you might find yourself saying “…remember how we had to wait 30 minutes for the cake to bake? That’s how long we have to wait until we go to the park.” This will be a great sense of time for the little ones, and the first lesson in “good things come to those who wait”.
- Mathematic concepts – Weight, measurement, and time are all very complex ideas for children to learn from a book. Real experiences can form concrete understandings from am early age, and you may find your child grasps these concepts much more quickly once they begin school.
- Self-esteem – Spending one-on-one time with your child in the kitchen will work wonders for their self-esteem. Helping your little one create something delicious and showing it off to the rest of the family that night will give them an overwhelming sense of pride. Self-esteem is so important as it allows children to feel safe to make decisions – and mistakes, to learn without fear.
- Vocabulary – Cooking in the kitchen with your child will bring about a whole new range of great words to add to their vocabulary. The curiosity alone will inspire speech, and new words will come flying out of their mouth before you know it.
- Reading – For younger children this will be one of their first steps in reading, following the words in a recipe book left to right and even recognising some words like “milk” after plenty of repetition. For older children they can practice their developing skills in a non-threatning environment – learning through play.
- Planning – Cooking requires planning, and lots of it. The kitchen is one of the first places your child might experience step-by-step planning, simple directions, and memorising in its simplest forms – all really important skills to have. Planning is a form of routine, and children thrive on routine.
- Budgeting – Involving your child in the planning of weekly meals or simply helping to write the shopping list can be the start of a budgeting lesson. Understanding the meaning of money, the value of it, and how it works is a great life lesson to have.
- Food/produce appreciation – Food appreciation is so important in today’s fast and furious world. A world where many children don’t know that milk comes from cows is a pretty sad place. Involving your child in all aspects of food is a great steo towards respecting product and developing positive food associations is a great first step. Try involving your child in fresh food planning, read books about where food comes from, take them shopping, explain the basics of ripe and seasonal food, or ask them to choose the food they want to use.
- Fine motor skills – Cooking is a great place for young children to practice fine motor skills and learn new ones. Mastering delicate decorations on a cookie requires experimentation of manipulating little muscles they wouldn’t normally use. They can practice sprinkling grated cheese, kneading dough, whisking, gently shaking a sieve, or scooping out the batter – also very beneficial for hand eye coordination and concentration skills.
- Scientific questions – Cooking involves all sorts of chemical reactions and exciting possibilities. Take the opportunity to talk about all the questions they might have. You can also ask your child lots of questions to get him or her thinking and coming up with new theories and ideas.
- Nutrition – The benefits of simple healthy nutrition can be learnt from an early age. Knowing you need fruit and vegetables every day, and limiting salt and fats is a great first lesson for children setting them up for positive food associations right from the start.
- Fussy eating – Fussy eating is a huge problem for some parents. You might be interested in our post on Fussy Eating – How it Starts, or Raising a Good Eater. By cooking with your kids you may find their new found respect for food or food enjoyment will stop the fussy eating behaviour.
We believe the benefits of cooking in the kitchen are invaluable to the learning and development of your child. We would love to hear your thoughts and find out what food your kids love cooking the most.Join us on Facebook for other foodie bits and pieces.