Getting your kids helping in the kitchen is a great way to communicate and teach the virtues of doing things together. When my daughters were young, they were great company to me while I was busy in my kitchen cooking for the family, and get-togethers. While the younger one would sit on the kitchen counter and observe, the older one, on her tippy-toes would throw veggies into the pot. I also used to get all sorts of questions, which was a great way for us to bond.
I learnt that it requires time, patience, and more work, but the benefits of cooking with kids are totally worth it. And, gender does not matter – cooking can be fun for both boys and girls!
Right from infancy, kids can be in the kitchen watching and learning; some days they’re more eager to help than others and, some days you will be more eager to get help from them! However, I definitely see how their time spent in the kitchen benefits both the parent and child greatly.
Here is a short list of benefits:
1. Learning and loving the basic skill of cooking, which can be used for the rest of your child’s life, is perhaps the most obvious skill gained. Cooking lessons are a great segue to learning larger lessons, as children reach adulthood.
2. Cooking with children can help them develop an adventurous spirit and cultivate a varied taste palette. Those who have been involved in the cooking process are generally more appreciative of different culinary traditions and are keen to try new foods.
3. This activity plays an important role in children’s health and nutrition. Research shows that kids who eat home-cooked meals, on a regular basis, tend to be happier and healthier and consume less sugar and processed foods.
4. Involving children in the kitchen, from a young age, cultivates a collaborative spirit that will endure lifelong. It is also a great environment for siblings to cooperate and communicate, building stronger relationships.
5. Activities involving arms and hands, stirring, measuring, rolling, squeezing and spreading, are some of the kitchen tasks that promote fitness in children, allowing youngsters to develop fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills.
6. Children learn by touching, tasting, feeling, smelling, observing, reading and listening. This is why the kitchen is a perfect environment for learning – it hits a range of senses and learning styles.
7. Talking and describing what you are doing can expose young children to new words and terms. As children get older, they can describe to you what they are doing, what they see, smell and how things feel etc. Thus, cooking offers a great opportunity to help with language development.
8. Learning basic math skills and applying them is a bonus for children. Counting (three spoons of…), number recognition, (reading numbers on scales), mathematical language (more than, bigger, smaller), multiplication (doubling a recipe) weighing (scales) and fractions (1/4, 1/2 cups) are just a few of the many mathematical skills that can be developed and applied in cooking.
9. The kitchen is like a mini–Science Lab. Children can watch materials change colour, texture and form (liquids, solids, gases) and they can make scientific predictions and observations!
10. Recipe development and food presentation are more complex skills that can be nurtured early.
11. A kitchen is a great place for parents to spend quality time with their children. It can be a place to talk about family traditions, through passed down family recipes, or it can simply be a place just to catch up with day-to-day life.
12. You can nurture your child’s self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth. Teaching children to cook provides many opportunities to encourage and celebrate their contribution to family. Children feel a great sense of joy and pride when they feel they’ve successfully prepared a dish for themselves or their family.
I remember those days very fondly, and even today my grown-up children cherish those times. I wish all the moms out there with young kids enjoy the fun time of cooking together and celebrate!
– Rajee Viswanadhan | Co-founder & CPO, upUgo