Benefits of Cooking with Kids
Is cooking with kids already a regular part of your family life? There are so many benefits to having your children help you in the kitchen, and there’s no better time to start than today.
Do you have a passel of young children underfoot? Pull up the kitchen chairs to the counter – there are plenty of kitchen tasks that they can do!
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Are your children older and typically consider the kitchen to be Mom or Dad’s domain? No longer!
Not only does it benefit your kids for you to cook with them, but you’ll have a positive experience as well – if you relax and enjoy the process.
Sure, it’s true. Some days will be easier than others.
Yet, you’ll look back over years of shared time in the kitchen and find it a net positive – I promise!
Reinforces Basic Math Skills
Mathematics is found all over a recipe card.
It’s a great way for small children to work on number recognition and one-to-one counting.
A school-age child will get a hands-on experience with fractions – and not simply recognizing them!
Double the recipe and have them try adding the fractions!
Give them a 1/4 cup measuring scoop and have them sort out how many they’ll need to scoop out the amount of flour the recipe calls for.
Recipes are also great for learning about weights and measures and their conversions.
Increases Literacy + Vocabulary
Cooking is great for language development.
Children of a young age will encounter many new words that they may not have ever heard.
Older children will need to learn to differentiate between all of the verbs found in recipes, like the difference between “slicing” and “dicing”.
You might find them using some of this newfound cooking terminology in their play – like, if they’re just “boiling over” with excitement!
Having many cooks in the same kitchen makes it important that everyone follows instructions.
Not just the instructions on the recipe, but your instructions as well!
If you ever feel like your children just don’t listen to you (and who hasn’t felt that way at times?), bringing your children into the kitchen is a perfect way to help with that.
Opportunities For Creativity
Every home cook knows that the best recipes are just… suggestions.
You have a whole spice cabinet at your disposal!
Who says you need to only use cinnamon in your banana bread?
You’ve made pizza many times, but see if your children can think of their own twist on that classic. A pita bread pizza, perhaps!
Say that you’re going to make a fruit salad – and let that be the only prompt.
What will your children make? What’s their idea of a “fruit salad”? Cooking is a good way to get creative juices flowing!
Practice Cooperation + Sharing
If you have more than one child, you can approach cooking with your children in different ways.
Some families have set up a schedule where one child helps out for an entire day, and another child gets a different day.
Or, they separate it out by meals.
However, the important life skills of cooperating with others and sharing can be learned in the daily family cooking class!
Not everyone can add the milk to the pancake mix.
Only one person can cut a celery stalk at a time.
Working together to create the family meal is a great opportunity for siblings to learn to work together.
Develops Life Skills
This is perhaps the most apparent benefit to cooking with kids – teaching them valuable life skills that they will go on to use on a regular basis.
You don’t have to cook elaborate meals for your children to gain from helping you.
You’d be amazed how many basic cooking processes young adults might not know – like how to boil pasta or how to dice an onion.
If you have older children, this benefit alone should encourage you to get them in the kitchen with you!
Boosts Coordination + Fine Motor Skills
Cooking is a very physical experience!
Think of all of the coordination and fine motor skills involved with washing, peeling, dicing, grating, and pouring.
There’s a task suitable for every age and ability.
Younger kids will gain skills by chopping soft foods with a butter knife, stirring ingredients together in a bowl, and moving things off a cutting board and into a pot.
Older children can learn how to cut butter into flour using a pastry knife, safely peel vegetables, and separate eggs.
Every age can benefit from improved hand-eye coordination skills!
Encourages Picky Eaters
If you have a picky eater on your hands, one of the most beneficial things you can do to help them try new foods is to have them prepare them!
This is particularly true is you start at any early age.
Suddenly, “that green thing” on their plate has a name.
Not only that, but your child washed it, cut it, and cooked it themselves.
They want to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Even if they taste it and decide that they still don’t like it – at least they tasted it!
Bringing children into the cooking process helps them to explore many different types of foods.
Provides A Sensory Experience
Cooking is the ultimate sensory experience!
The textures, the sounds, the smells! We can fabricate sensory bins – or, we can get our children involved with making home-cooked meals!
Younger children particularly benefit from the sensory aspect of cooking, so give them room to do some of this exploring.
Sure, we don’t want to making “cooking with Mom or Dad” into a time when your toddler gets free rein to destroy the kitchen.
But wash their hands, and then let them use them!
Can they mix up a bread dough with their hands rather than a spoon, for example?
Learn To Clean Up Messes
Nobody necessarily enjoys cleaning up after themselves, let alone children!
But “cooking with Mom or Dad in the kitchen” is more than just combining ingredients together and making a food – it’s also about cleaning up.
Part of cooking is washing dishes and wiping down countertops.
This can be a great first step for young children.
Give them an ingredients or two to chop, let them mix the bowl, and then give them the task of washing or drying dishes.
They’ll think it’s fun!
Learn To Navigate Risks
There are, admittedly, many dangers in the kitchen.
There are sharp knives and hot stoves. You’ll need to scaffold your children as they learn valuable skills around these risks.
However, learning to navigates risks is, in itself, a valuable skill.
There are safety knives available now that are designed specifically with young children in mind, shaped in such a way to encourage them to keep their fingers guarded.
Opens Up Discussions About Nutrition
Cooking with your children is the perfect opportunity to discuss important topics in a “by the way” manner.
You can explain the nutrients and vitamins provided by each of the different ingredients.
When they ask why you can just cook burgers and forget the green salad altogether, you can explain how bodies need the different nutrients and energy sources that a balanced meal provides.
You can discuss where the ingredients come from, how they were raised, and why you purchase the ingredients that you do.
They’ll be more likely to receive this information this way, rather than through a formal class or a “parental preaching”, and they’ll be better equipped to make healthy choices themselves!