Sitting down for a family meal can offer a great time for family bonding. But what about all that meal prep, grocery shopping, and cooking time? When you get your children involved with the process of making meals, your family will enjoy a wide range of benefits. Of course, the thought of handing over your recipes to your kids when you’re in a time crunch can feel overwhelming. That’s why Crème de la Crème put together this guide to the benefits of bringing your kids into the kitchen as well as some helpful strategies for doing so successfully.
Why Get Kids Involved With Cooking?
If you’re eager to get the next meal on the table, you might think the prospect of spills, messes, and delays that inevitably come from kids “helping out” will create a source of frustration and not joy. However, getting the kiddos involved in age-appropriate ways can offer an abundance of long-term benefits. Bringing kids into the kitchen can boost their self-esteem, build their knowledge, and even deepen the parent-child relationship in the process.
Kids in the Kitchen Gain Self-Confidence
As kids learn how to navigate the kitchen and prepare different foods, they start feeling empowered. That can-do attitude can translate to other areas of their lives, too. Children start feeling more confident in their own abilities, and they gain a sense of pride about how they’ve helped to provide for other members of the family — while creating something really tasty!
At the same time, kids who help cook gain more confidence about what goes into a healthy snack or balanced meal. Picky eaters start to get more open-minded about trying new flavors, and kids in general may be less likely to grab quick junk food when they want a snack. To better help your children develop a positive relationship with their food, try to stay away from shaming or moralizing language, like calling food “bad” or “good.” Just modeling healthy choices while cooking gives kids the basis they need to make their own healthy decisions.
Cooking Deepens Important Knowledge
As you work with food with your kids alongside you, you’ll automatically have a way to discuss things like healthy eating habits, nutrition, and ingredients. You can show kids how to read nutrition labels while chatting about why particular nutrients are important to help bodies grow. You can also talk about the differences between artificial ingredients and whole foods while comparing your ingredient list with pre-made products. All in all, kids helping out in the kitchen gain nutritional knowledge along the way that they’ll use throughout their lives.
It’s not just nutritional knowledge kids gain by helping with the cooking, though. Cooking is a great way to build on math and reading skills children are developing in school. Depending on your kids’ ages, you can test knowledge of math concepts like weight and measurements, fractions, addition, or simple counting. Likewise, following recipes step by step can bolster reading comprehension skills, and using terms like blending, folding, stirring, and whisking can expand your kids’ vocabulary. Cooking can even expand your kids’ worldview by introducing them to various food cultures.
Cooking Together Strengthens Personal Connections
When you prepare meals together with your kids, you also reap the benefits in your parent-child relationship. Finding quiet moments to bond can be tough with schedules packed with work, school, and everything in between. But you always have to eat! Mealtime offers the perfect opportunity to grow closer as a family.
You can share recipes you love with your kids and teach them your own tried-and-true cooking tricks. You can also share warm memories you have from cooking with your family when you were younger. Need to prepare something for a gathering with extended family or friends? Children love having their kitchen fun as a conversation starter.
Involve Kids in Every Aspect of Cooking
Getting kids into the kitchen goes beyond the act of cooking. You can also get them involved with planning meals and shopping for groceries. The work that goes in before producing the actual meal offers kids a chance to get creative, all while you talk about the nutritional value of various recipes, ingredients, and meals.
You can boost the fun factor by giving kiddos the go-ahead to modify things as you go. Let kids share their cooking ideas as you scroll through online recipes, flip through your cookbooks, or try your hand at a traditional family meal.
Assigning Tasks for Kids at Different Ages
You can get your kids involved in different ways as they learn and grow. Of course, safety always comes first, and you’ll want to talk about kitchen safety with children of all ages to build a solid foundation. Even as older kids build kitchen competencies, you’ll want to appropriately supervise them, even if you let them take on more tasks independently.
The National Institute of Health even has a handy list of how to get kids into the kitchen in age-appropriate ways, including:
- 2-year-olds: Wiping tabletops, tearing greens or breaking vegetables into pieces, carrying ingredients from one place to another, washing fruits and veggies.
- 3-year-olds: Kneading or shaping dough, shaking liquids in closed containers, applying soft spreads, mixing and pouring ingredients, moving items to the trash.
- 4-year-olds: Peeling foods like hard-boiled eggs or oranges, mashing with a fork, cutting with kid-safe scissors, setting the table.
- 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds: Measuring ingredients, using an egg beater.
Older kids can start using more kitchen tools. You can bring in those age-appropriate math and reading tasks as well, no matter how old your children are. There’s truly a way for kids of any age to get involved in the kitchen.
Bringing kids into the kitchen as you prepare meals offers a huge variety of benefits. From giving kids confidence as they learn to count and read to teaching them lifelong kitchen skills, cooking together certainly means enhanced knowledge. The benefits don’t stop there, though. Cooking together helps develop self-confident kids who value time together as a family, too. Do you have a cooking tip to share with other families looking to get kids involved in the kitchen? Drop us a line so we can share it!