“By starting small, you can build the foundation that eventually leads to confidence in the kitchen”.
– Author Unknown
Children should learn how to cook. Period. At some point our cute little humans will grow up to be adults who will need to have a basic set of life skills in order to function and take care of themselves. Cooking is without a doubt one of those basic life skills. I would like to think that when my kids are grown and out of the house they will be able to do better for themselves than a bowl of cereal or an icky frozen meal. I want them to have enough knowledge and experience in the kitchen to be able to pull together a few simple dishes on their own without having to rely on prepackaged foods from the supermarket. I also want them to one day be able to prepare great meals for their own families and for that to happen, it begins with me.
I’ve been cooking and baking with my kids since they were toddlers, which I know sounds young, but they used to love being up on the counter helping to stir and mix ingredients. Helping me cook really made them feel useful and good about themselves. It is simple tasks like these that become the foundation from which you build up their skills and confidence in the kitchen as they get older. Every small task they accomplish is another step towards gaining independence in the kitchen. My daughter is almost 9 now and when she sees a dish in a restaurant or watches a cooking show her response is usually, “I think I can make that Mommy! Can we try to make that?” and it’s because she’s gained enough confidence in herself and in her skills in the kitchen to want to try. That confidence and belief in herself will carry her even further than just being able to cook, it’ll help her in life.
Got picky eaters? Involving kids in the meal planning and cooking process is a great way to get them to try new things and broaden their palettes. As a mom of two picky eaters myself I completely understand the challenge other parents face in finding foods that kids will actually eat. My daughter, who inspects every fleck of food on her dish, can be impossible to deal with at meal time. Recently, she took a cooking class where she made something called “Veggie Yakisoba” which in a million years I would never think she’d eat. Aside from the veggies it was made with soba noodles, an ingredient she’s never had before, so I was sure she’d resist that dish at every turn. To my surprise, she dove right in and ended up loving it! I know for certain, had I made that same dish and served it to her she’d turn up her nose but because she was involved in the process of cooking it she was intrigued to try it. It’s nice being able to add another food to the short list of things she will eat. So instead of fighting with your kids about eating and stressing yourself out, involve them in the process so that you’re working together to make mealtime a more pleasurable experience.
Cooking and baking with your kids is also the perfect opportunity to teach them a little math. Allowing them to measure ingredients is a great way to reinforce concepts such as adding, subtracting, and even fractions. Mathematical concepts when used in “real life” tend to stick with kids much better than when just seen on a page. You can also show them how recipes can be converted from the U.S. standard of measurement to the metric system and vice versa. Teaching them how to halve or double a recipe is another great way for them to stretch their math skills. Cooking, while fun, is also an excellent learning experience for children. Don’t miss these teachable moments in the kitchen!
Healthy matters! As you cook together, talk to your children about healthy eating habits and healthy foods. Show them how you can make their favorite treats even better by using fresh, wholesome ingredients instead of all of the junk that is in prepackaged foods. Who needs to eat gross things like guar gum, carrageenan, and 40 different types of dyes? You will find that your kids palettes can change quickly and before you know it, they will prefer the healthier made foods more than the store-bought ones they were once used to. Show them how you can easily make your own cookie dough, granola bars, snack mixes, and more which I promise will taste better than anything from a store. Got a green thumb? Try growing a small garden together so they will have a bounty of fresh ingredients at their disposal to turn into delicious meals. There is nothing better than a summer warmed cucumber from your own garden! Start them on the right foot early so that later they don’t have to struggle with food issues.
Lastly, cooking brings families together. Being in kitchen with your kids is a great way to slow down, connect and make memories. The cell phones are away, the TV is off and you’re all focused on a common goal which is to make a great meal to share. This time together is the perfect opportunity to talk to your kids about their day, about their dreams, about anything under the sun. Relax, smile, laugh, and make beautiful memories together. The times you spend with your kids in the kitchen will be the times they remember when they look back on their childhood. Learning to prepare treasured family recipes and cooking alongside elders will undoubtedly become some of your children’s most treasured memories.
There really are no drawbacks to having your kids in the kitchen. Sure it might take a little longer to pull a dish together but in the end it will get done and your kids will have learned another skill, gotten another boost of confidence, and taken another step towards becoming an independent, functioning adult. Bonus for you? Maybe one day when you’re older and your kids are grown you’ll be able to sit at THEIR kitchen table and have them cook you a delicious, homemade meal. Then you can smile and give yourself a little pat on the back for a job well done because you paved the way for them to be confident in the kitchen.