Most kids love to cook. While including kids when cooking certainly takes extra patience and clean up time, the rewards can be worth the effort.
Children who help cook often learn to like healthier foods. Have a picky eater at your house? Cooking with your kids can get them interested in new foods as they will have more interest in trying what they have helped prepare. It’s one thing to put a bowl of salad in front of your child at dinner, however their reaction to the salad may be different when they’ve helped wash and tear the lettuce, whisk the dressing and shred the cheese.
Cooking together is the perfect opportunity to talk about healthy ingredients. While prepping and mixing talk about the different food groups. Identify foods in these groups and how they benefit us. While making chicken roll ups, discuss how protein in the chicken builds strong muscles and how the carbohydrates in the wrap give us energy. Talk with your child about how milk products, like the cheese in the roll up help protect our bones and teeth and how fruits and vegetables like the spinach give us vitamins we need.
Cooking together means more meals at home. It is thought that the obesity epidemic of both children and adults in the U.S. is due in part to the number of meals eaten outside of the home where the portions are large and the percentage of fat is high. Preparing more meals at home means the ingredients, portions, and thus our weight and health, can be better managed.
Cooking with kids is a great time for learning. When kids learn to cook, they learn more than just how to prepare a dish or meal. They improve skills like reading and comprehension, measuring, fractions and kitchen safety. They learn about meal planning, label reading and food safety – all beneficial for life.
Kitchen time is quality-time together. Without the distraction of television, computer or video games, spending time preparing meals can mean valuable family time, in a relaxed atmosphere. This can lead to opportunities for conversation and communication, which is very important.
Choose the right time.
Don’t choose a busy week night after soccer and before a test the next day to start your children cooking. Instead, choose a slower-paced day, perhaps on the weekend. Maybe even breakfast if weekend mornings are calmer at your house.
Choose age appropriate tasks.
All school age children regardless of age or ability, can help cook. Show your child the task first and then let them do it on their own. Some tasks that younger school-age children should be able to help with include mashing potatoes or bananas, peeling apples with a safe peeler, stirring ingredients, rolling or kneading dough and using cookie cutters.
Older school-age kids are probably ready for more of a challenge, so let them take the lead. Be the assistant in the kitchen and only step in when needed. Closely monitor or take over any work that requires the stove, oven or knives.
Keep your cool.
Cooking with your kids may take longer than if you were doing it yourself. But the rewards far outweigh the inconveniences.