Let’s get in the kitchen with our kids! Why? Cooking with your kids has a lot of benefits. For starters, it’s a great way for your family to reconnect at the end of the day.
Parents are busy. Trust me, I get that. But cooking is a life skill that will serve kids well. As a home economist, I argue that cooking is just as important as ball practice. Scratch that; it’s more important. Even if my child is that 1 in 16,000 who goes on to play a professional sport, they’ll still have to feed themselves. So let’s carve out time to cook with our kids now.
My children are 5 and 8, and according to the 8-year-old, “practically grown.” She certainly isn’t grown, but she is plenty big enough to do many tasks in the kitchen. In fact, kids as young as age 2 can help in the kitchen.
1. Plan Ahead
Yes, cooking with kids does take some more time. But with a bit of planning, cooking can be a family activity, rather than a mundane task you do alone. Start by stocking your kitchen with kid-friendly kitchen gadgets, and don’t forget step stools.
2. Stay Safe
The hardest part for me is dealing with food safety and kids’ safety. The best way to handle kid safety is to only let them do age appropriate tasks. To deal with food safety, we wash our hands at the appropriate times (after handling raw eggs or meat) and we never, never, never put our fingers in our mouths when we are cooking, nor do we taste our raw cookie dough (sigh).
3. Teach Them About Nutrition
Cooking time is a perfect time to talk and learn about foods. What texture is cheese when it is cold, room temperature, or ooy-gooey-yummy-melty? What does the protein and calcium in the cheese do for our body?
4. …And About Other Things, Too.
Kids who cook practice math, reading, and science skills. Homemade ice cream is a science experiment right there in the kitchen, talking about how a milk can go from a liquid to a solid. Need more proof? Read about more benefits here.
5. Encourage Them to Try New Foods
Kids are more likely to taste food they prepared, and that’s a big deal when you have picky eaters like mine. Not to mention the pride and self-esteem they show as they announce “Daddy, did you like supper? We made it!”
6. Enjoy the Extra Hands
Once your kids gain new skills, “helping” truly becomes a help. My “practically grown” nearly 9-year-old can now brown ground beef on the stove top with supervision. And she can pour the milk for all of us to drink. My 5-year-old can set the table, and help clear it, too! He loves, loves, loves to play in water, so why not let him wash the strawberries at the same time? And if he eats one in the meantime, so be it. We also love (and will eat every bit of) sandwich art.
The vast majority of college kids can’t make a hot meal. What will they do when they’re out on their own? Eat take-out for every single meal? Not on my watch. In-between ball practice, cheerleading and golf, my kids are learning to cook. And some day in the not so far off future, they’ll be able to make a healthy meal all on their own.