This past summer I made the effort to involve my children in the kitchen more. I usually prep and cook my family’s meals on my own…until recently because my kids have been asking to help. To my surprise, our summer routine was so smooth that it almost felt as though I actually had extra time on my hands so I decided to take advantage of that to 1) spend quality time with my children in a different way 2) teach my children some of the kitchen and cooking basics.
A lot of kids, at one point or another, enjoy playing with toy kitchens and/or foods. (By the way, I’m so impressed by how cool the toy kitchens are designed nowadays!) Whether they mimic what we do in the kitchen or just let their imaginations run wild they learn so much as they play. Some children show more interest than others when it comes to cooking as they grow up and that’s okay. Start them off with simple and fun recipes that interest them. Cooking with kids can be so much fun! My daughter likes to pretend we’re on a cooking competition show.
When kids get involved in the kitchen they develop their eye-hand coordination, muscle control, and using their senses to name a few. The first step, regardless of the child’s age, is to go over the kitchen and cooking rules in your home. They should know what they are allowed to touch and use, which depends on their age and ability. Remind them to be cautious if/when…
Putting in and taking something out of the fridge, pantry, any kitchen appliances etc.
Around heat sources such as: stove-top, oven, crock-pot etc.
Around sharp items such as knives, peelers, can openers etc.
Here are some other life skills that may help your little one become a mini master in the kitchen.
Creating a grocery list
Properly washing and storing food
READING AND WRITING
By helping to write out a grocery list, reading labels, and recipes (whether with help or on their own) children practice their reading and writing skills when preparing to cook. Not only is this a great way to develop a child’s reading comprehension since they’re required to follow sequential directions but they become familiar with specific cooking terms such as: whisking or folding. Picture recipes, which can be found online, work wonders for pre-reader chefs.
MATH AND SCIENCE
Both math and science play a big role in the kitchen. From measurements to temperature, it makes all the difference when cooking. It can make or break your recipe (although sometimes there may be a way to salvage it). Cooking can very well be seen as a science experience. Children have the opportunity to be hands-on in the kitchen and learn about the biological, chemical, and physical makeup of food. A recipe as simple as pancakes or cookies serves as a great demonstration for kids to learn how certain ingredients react to one another as they are combined and mixed as well as when the batter or dough is exposed to heat.
It’s never to early to teach and encourage your child to learn about the foods they eat. It’s important for them to know what their body should intake and be limited to. This is a great time to introduce ingredients to look for as well as stay away from. Take the time to show your children the nutrition label. This is especially important for any child that has allergies. For example, my daughter does not consume dairy so the first thing she looks for on a nutrition label is whether it contains milk and eggs.
I’m so thankful that my children allowed me to realize that there’s an opportunity to create a memory each and every moment…including in the kitchen. In a few years, it probably won’t matter to them what I cooked for dinner or how clean and organized I tried to keep the kitchen. What does and will matter (especially if I continue embracing the simple yet oh so magical moments) is the time we spent together…learning and having fun in the kitchen. The same lessons that were passed down to me by my mom that I’m sharing with my children now will encourage them to make their wellness a priority by knowing more about the foods they eat and how to cook them.