Cooking with kids is one of the most positive and healthy parenting experiences you can have this summer. There’s plenty of fresh produce around and lots of days to fill during the summer break. Kids who learn to cook in a positive environment can change what they like to eat and even what they crave. There is no better time to instill healthy eating habits and an appreciation for wholesome food than during childhood and pre-adolescent years.
Why should I take time out of my busy schedule to teach my child to cook?
Cooking together is a way of spending quality time with your children. Although nutrition is important, it’s more about cultivating life-long habits and an appreciation for real food. Long-term benefits aside, it teaches kids basic math skills, responsibility, hygiene skills, hand-eye coordination, basic nutrition as well as how to follow instructions. And best of all, it’s just plain fun!
When’s a good age to start?
You child can begin helping at a very young age. Even the very youngest chef can pour ingredients into a bowl, wash fruits and vegetables (wow water play!), look for bruised parts, tear lettuce leaves and count the number of spoonfuls of flour you are scooping into the bowl.
Got any tips?
Welcome the kids into the kitchen with their own aprons. For older kids (although perhaps not teenagers), throw in a chef’s hat if you like and even a drawer for them to store their own kitchen tools.
Use seasonal and fresh produce to make dishes that are fun to cook and eat. Keep recipes simple at first; they don’t even have to involve flames. Consider fruit kebabs, muffins, dips, rolls, wraps, green smoothies and even no-bake cookies.
Invite your child to help plan meals ahead of time and shop with you for the ingredients. Younger kids can plan one dish (even if it’s just a fruit salad), while older kids can help plan the whole meal. Read through the recipe together so they understand the process, then write the shopping list together.
Lay out everything you need on your work surface before you start cooking, and teach good habits by cleaning up as you go. Establish kitchen rules early, such as not using flames or knives when an adult is not around. Be sure to observe safety yourself: turn pot handles inward, use oven mitts, and handle knives safely.
Be patient and gentle in your guidance. Kids will make a mess because they are learning skills we all take for granted. That is part of the learning process. Remember, you are doing this to enjoy their company. This is about making good memories rather than seeking culinary perfection.
Finally, empower your children by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities in the kitchen. A 2-year-old, for example, is more than capable of wiping up a small spill. An early school-age child can help write the shopping list and a pre-teen can help with planning meals for the family. And you can all enjoy the fruits of your labor together.