Cooking is an important skill.
Being able to cook gives a child the tools they need to become independent in the future – as well as supporting their good nutrition and health throughout life.
But, if we start young, cooking can be much more than learning the mechanics of putting food together. By bringing children into the kitchen at an early age we can impart many extra skills and benefits:
- Basic maths skills. Counting eggs or measuring ingredients are good examples of how cooking can help hone basic maths skills.
- Basic reading skills. As children begin to read, working with recipes is a practical and enjoyable (and hidden) way of having them practice.
- Exploring their senses. Cooking is alive with sounds, tastes and smells. Listening to the whir of the mixer. Pounding and kneading dough. Smelling muffins cooking and then tasting them warm and fresh. Encouraging children to taste the ingredients (licking the spoon) will expand their knowledge and encourage a more adventurous palate.
- Overcoming fussy eating. Pre-schoolers are notoriously fussy eaters and bringing them into the kitchen can open them up to new tastes. If it looks good, smells good, is easy to eat, and they helped make it - they just might be willing to eat it.
- Building confidence. Pre-schoolers love to show what they can do and working in the kitchen provides opportunities to gain a sense of accomplishment. Let them know that their help was important (and if the end results are not exactly what was expected, praise their efforts). Look for opportunities for the child to complete cooking-related activities independently – like pouring liquid into a bowl, sprinkling cheese on top, or using cookie cutters.
Including children when cooking meals takes time, patience and some extra clean-up, but it is well worth the effort and will pay off when they get older.
And, children are much more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped plan and prepare it.