Teaching kids to cook has a ton of benefits for parents and kids. While it may seem daunting to let your little ones take on the responsibility of helping prepare meals, it is totally doable.
Most parents make sure that the entire kitchen is baby-proofed and safe for children, with the right tools and mindset, teaching kids to cook can be a fun bonding experience that’s also educational. Plus, it can help picky eaters learn to try new foods, especially when cooking with preschoolers!
Why is learning to cook important?
Have you ever had a quick look at the ingredients list on processed or prepackaged foods? Chances are you don’t even know what half those ingredients are.
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children in the US is considered obese. While many different body types are perfectly healthy, it is also important to ensure we are helping our children learn about what foods are the healthiest to eat to ensure they stay healthy as they grow into adults.
Cooking your own foods is the best way to know exactly what you and your child are consuming and in what quantities.
If you involve your child in the process of creating meals, then they will have those skills for the rest of their life and will be able to properly nourish themselves with healthy (and delicious) foods.
What age should a child start cooking?
As soon as they are ready! This isn’t a hard and fast answer, but rather includes some nuance based on age and each individual child’s development.
The ways a 5-year-old can help in the kitchen is not the same as a one-year-old, but you can still include a precocious toddler into your cooking.
For example, maybe your toddler can help you mash up some avocado for guacamole or avocado toast! While your preschooler could help cut fruits and vegetables with safe tools like these crinkle cutters. Cooking with preschoolers or even toddlers is totally doable with some creativity.
What can a child learn from cooking?
Most obviously a child will learn about the actual food they are eating. Instead of just being handed a bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce they will learn all the different ingredients it takes to create that meal.
Not only is this helping them to learn about the actual items in the dish, but also gain a sense of appreciation for the effort that goes into cooking the things that they eat.
Cooking (and baking too) is a great way to introduce some practical math skills with children. The counting out and measuring of ingredients is a will help math lessons sink in more easily than workbooks and formal lessons.
Plus, the stirring, pouring, spooning, measuring and more is great for developing little ones’ motor skills!
Spending this time in the kitchen together with you is a great chance for bonding and learning from each other. Just as your child will learn from you how to cook, you will learn some life lessons too, like patience and letting go of perfection.
What are some fun things to cook with kids?
A fan favorite is pancakes! Most kids love to eat them, and the preparation is super simple. Our favorite recipe is this one, but we add a little dash of cinnamon and vanilla. Just be sure a grown-up takes care of the actual cooking on the stove. (You can also use this to make waffles!)
Two Waldorf education inspired items to good are stone (vegetable) soup, and baking bread!
Baking bread is basically like playing with playdoh for kids with all the kneading, and if you use safety knives or crinkle cutters, they can help cut up veggies for soup!
I also love Prep Dish. They send you a menu with a list of ingredients and instructions for meal prep each week. It makes serving up delicious foods sooo easy. Get your little one in on the process! Plus, with this link you get two weeks free!
Is it safe to cook with children?
Use common sense here. Little children should probably be kept at arm’s length or more from hot stoves and ovens or sharp knives, but teaching kids to cook can still be done with little ones. I love this cookbook to start with for kids. It’s easy and fun!
The best way they can help cook with the prep work away from the heat and only using tools that are age-appropriate. Check out these awesome tools that allow children to safely cook with grown-ups.
There will be some messes in your cooking journey, but teaching kids to cook is well worth the effort. Before long, maybe you’ll finally get a little time for self-care when your tiny chefs can put dinner on the table themselves!
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