A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a girlfriend about the seemingly endless cycle of cooking dinner. “It seems to me,” she stated with a sigh, “like it is the same thing every night. Settle the kids in front of the TV or a game, pull out the main dish, a side, and a vegetable. Rinse and repeat—every single night.
“Have you ever thought about having the kids cook with you?” I asked. She looked at me with horror.
There are many benefits to having your kids in the kitchen while you cook. You just need a helping of patience.
Children see the kitchen as a place full of wonder–usually off-limits wonder! The dinner chef seems to whip up delicious food from ingredients magically, and many children want to participate.
Recipes Are a Wonderland For Children
What’s contained in a recipe? A list of ingredients, measuring, fractions, and time management. There are many numbers involved in cooking; children can be in charge of setting the timer, measuring the baking soda, or setting the oven temperature. All of this needs to happen under the watchful eye of a parent or a responsible adult.
Kitchens Foster Creativity
Some recipes come from parent to child, and they exist only in your mind. How can you and your children put your spin on a family favorite? Teach your children about acceptable replacements for specific ingredients, primarily when the other components result in a healthier meal. For example, chicken or turkey can replace red meat, and applesauce or yogurt can replace oil in some recipes. Now more than ever, there are healthy options. Your kids can accompany you when you go shopping in preparation for cooking together, and you can choose your healthy ingredients together.
Preparing Food Improves Reading Skills
There are so many items to read and comprehend in the kitchen, and you may have to read a recipe, list of ingredients, and directions. Reading in the kitchen provides a real-world connection for your kids, and they see words have meaning and consequences. Reading also boosts language acquisition. Reading new materials, like recipes and directions, may involve new terms your children have never seen. Some of these may even include foreign language phrases.
Cooking Enhances Motor Skills
Scooping, pouring, stirring, flipping, and mixing—these are all activities you find chefs complete in the kitchen. Putting together a delicious feast also requires eye-hand coordination. Your kids can do all of these things, with varying degrees of assistance from you. Each of these activities is the practice of motor skills, which your children need. These skills will translate into riding a bicycle, playing a sport, or a musical instrument, as they get older.
Bonding Over Dinner Prep
The time we have with our children is precious. Why not take meal preparation time and use it as a way to create loving memories together? Cooking side by side with your children is a terrific way to grow closer and spend quality time together. Collaborating not only brings you closer, but it also teaches your children the benefits of teamwork and cooperation. Your children will benefit from the feeling of a job well done, and the joy of being part of the team who made the delicious meal happen!
Keeping Kids Engaged in the Kitchen
Once your children realize what a fun activity helping with dinner is, they will want to continue! Making one night a week ‘chef’s choice’ is a fun way to keep your children engaged and cooperating with meal preparation. Children learn about food safety, nutrition, counting, weighing, measuring, reading, and word acquisition, all while preparing a delicious family meal. That is a win for everyone in the family!
By Debra Kidder