Parents know that cooking with kids isn’t exactly the most relaxing activity. You won’t find yourself leisurely sipping a glass of wine after work while your 3-year old browses the contents of the refrigerator and “throws a little something together” for dinner. However, just like learning to dress, brush their teeth, and pick their room, cooking is an essential life skill.
“Parents should never underestimate the true value of teaching their children to cook because so many benefits exist,” writes psychology expert and children’s educator Susan Keenan for the Child Development Institute. “It’s an opportunity to bond with your child, encourage healthy eating, develop language and vocabulary skills, and enhance nutritional knowledge.”
That said, parents should consider carving out time to teach kitchen basics. Approach each cooking lesson with an endless supply of patience. Consider potty training: it’s an incredibly time consuming lesson, but in the end your baby is more independent, freeing up your time and providing your child with a source of self-confidence and pride.
5 Reasons Why We Should Teach Our Kids to Cook
1. Cooking is an opportunity to bond with your child.
Children love to explore new activities with their parents. Choose a meal to make on the weekend, when you’re not rushed. Avoid busy weeknights. Have your child participate in choosing which recipe you make. You can even suggest a recipe that’s new to both of you, so you can learn together. Ask them questions like, “Do you think this will be spicy?” or “Do you think this vegetable will taste different when it’s cooked? Why?” You don’t need to know all the answers. Learn together.
2. Cooking teaches children the importance of following directions.
Explain why you need to follow each step in order to get the intended result. Cooking also teaches patience, especially if you have to put a dish in the oven for an extended period.
3. Cooking expands a child’s vocabulary.
By following recipes, a child learns the names of new ingredients such as vegetables and spices. They may also learn verbs like “saute” or “roast.” The kitchen itself is home to a variety of new words for utensils and cooking gadgets.
4. Cooking teaches children about nutrition.
We recommend taking a trip to the grocery store or farmer’s market to pick out the ingredients together. Explain the difference between the fresh foods you’re using in the meal you’re making and the meals you make that sometimes have foods that come from a box or frozen. Discuss nutritional value. If a vegetable contains a lot of vitamin C or calcium, tell them what those vitamins help our bodies do. As an added bonus, if kids help with the cooking they are more likely to eat, or at least try, what they cook. Cooking is a remedy for picky eaters.
5. Cooking boosts your child’s self-esteem.
People of all ages feel satisfaction and pride after mastering a new skill, children especially. Knowing that they can follow the instructions and complete a task from start to finish goes a long way toward boosting their self-confidence. As with learning any new skill — from pouring a glass of water to riding a bike — cooking will take trial and error and your child will make a few mistakes. It’s up to you to encourage them and keep them motivated to reach their goal.
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