Why you should cook with children
Cooking with children is a brilliant activity that has all sorts of benefits. There’s no denying that it can be a bit messy but even very young children can do usesful things in the kitchen and are sure to get a lot out of it. Whether you have older kids that want to learn how to prepare an entire meal themselves, or a toddler with a short attention span who just wants to make something (including a mess) in the kitchen, there are so many benefits of cooking in early childhood.
Exploring new foods
Kids can be fussy eaters (particularly toddlers/preschoolers), so getting them in the kitchen, helping to prepare lots of different foods can help them to explore new tastes. My kids will try lots of things like pepper or carrots as we’re chopping them up for a meal, that they wouldn’t go near if I just put them on their plate.
Raising healthy children
Cooking food from scratch is often healthier and more nutritious than shop bought sauces or pre-packaged food. And it tastes a lot nicer too! Seeing what goes into something also gives you the chance to talk to your children about healthy rainbow foods vs sugary treats. We love to bake cookies and cakes but my kids know they’re a treat and why because they know what goes into them.
Kids get to use all their senses which encourages learning
There are loads of chances for kids to use all their senses while in the kitchen – touching, listening, tasting, looking and smelling. We all know it’s great to encourage kids to take part in sensory play, it stimulates their brain and helps improve their fine and gross motor skills. And where better to do that than in the kitchen where the things they are touching are also edible unlike things like sand or paint.
Cooking and baking allows kids to use their hands, for example making crumbles or biscuits with their fingers or kneading dough. They’ll experience different textures and also feel how the texture of something can change as you add to it or work it with your hands.
Lots of machines like food processors or mixers make fun noises which my kids love. Even if they’re not in the kitchen with me, my kids soon come running at the sound of a blender being turned on!
There are obviously lots of smells when you are cooking. I mean, who can resist the smell of freshly baked bread?! My kids also seem to love taking out all the herbs and spices in the kitchen to smell them and choose their favourites. I love that they’re getting familiar with lots of herbs and spices and sometimes let them choose which flavours to put in our dinner.
Once your kid’s senses have been tickled they’ll be much more likely to taste the fruits of their labour.
Kids will learn kitchen skills and reinforce other skills
Cooking and baking teaches children all sorts of skills. You can read through all the kitchen skills you child might learn, but they’ll also learn lots of literacy, numeracy and other skills. Even preschoolers can practice basic maths skills like counting (for example, eggs going into a cake, or tea spoons of spices in a dinner), or measuring, (using scales, learning about weight or measuring ml in a jug.)
They’ll also have to practice their listening skills, and following instructions. Something I find can take a lot of practice for a little one!
Cooking with children can save you stress
Yes, it’s true! Cooking with children doesn’t have to be stressful! I started cooking with my kids because if I hadn’t we would never have eaten dinner! Kids can be quite demanding especially around mealtimes and I’ve found that rather than trying to occupy them elsewhere it is often easier and less stressful for me just to get them involved. I might get them to peel an onion, or grate some cheese while I get on with cooking the rest of dinner. Or now that they’re getting a bit older they might stir the pan for me. It saves a lot of whinging or one handed, child-carrying cooking.
Learning to cook is an important life skill
You want your kids to leave home being able to cook. Or at least I do. And i’m talking proper food, not just the beans on toast or pasta that I used to survive on. There’s no reason they can’t do this well before they are ready to fly the nest – by the end of primary school, children should be more than capable of cooking a simple meal for the family. Some children will be able to do it even sooner than that.
Putting in hard work teaching kids to cook will almost certainly mean a few messy floors in the beginning but in the future they’ll be putting dinner on the table for you!
Cooking with children is fun
Kids love activities they can do with you and cooking is certainly no exception. You get to spend time together, talking and creating something tasty to share at the end. What’s not to love about that!
So whatever your motivation, if you’re feeling inspired, take a look at some of our kid proof recipes. We’ve got lots of easy baking recipes for kids and easy kid friendly dinner recipes. Or you can find out more about the kinds of cooking skills your children might be able to learn.