By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
The holiday season is fast approaching, which makes this a great time of year to start giving your kids some practical life skills by helping you in the kitchen. Getting your kids involved in the holiday food preparation is a great way to bond and pass on your traditions for celebrating.
Benefits of Cooking with Children
One of the biggest benefits to having your kids help you in the kitchen is that you are teaching them about food and nutrition. Learning about food helps you learn how to eat right, handle food safely, and be healthier. In fact, studies show that people who regularly eat meals prepared at home are more likely to be healthier – and happier. When you eat less sugar and avoid processed foods, you typically have more energy, a healthier immune system, and overall better mental health as a result. Research shows that people who eat home-cooked meals at least five or more days a week tend to live longer lives, too.
Cooking with your kids is also a great way to help them grow and develop. From improving vocabulary, math, and fine motor skills, to teaching your kids critical life skills so they will be able to take care of themselves as adults, cooking is an important way to help kids to become healthier and more independent.
Some of the many benefits of cooking with your children include:
• Building and enhancing fine motor skills
• Encouraging kids to try new foods
• Helping young children identify their senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing
• Boosting confidence by learning new things and creating something to take pride in
• Improving math ability by measuring, counting, and converting numbers
• Improving reading comprehension skills by following recipes
• Learning scientific concepts, like chemistry and experimentation
• Increasing focus and attention on the task at hand
• Inspiring creativity
• Teaching life skills they will need as adults
• Promoting healthy eating habits and understanding nutrition
• Encouraging family bonding
Helping in the Kitchen
Kids get hands on learning while helping in the kitchen because, as you cook, you are actively teaching them by showing them what to do. Cooking improves vocabulary by labeling ingredients as you go, reading to understand and follow recipes and instructions, math by counting and measuring ingredients, and following directions by listening to your instruction.
There are many ways for kids to help you in the kitchen. You can encourage your child’s interest in cooking by giving them different age-appropriate activities. Whether they stir batter, measure a cup of ingredients, knead dough, roll out cookies, or crack eggs, they are developing skills that will help them learn how to cook as they grow.
Here are a few ideas to get your kids helping in the kitchen, no matter what age they are:
• Let kids punch and knead dough for yeast breads
• Have kids cream butter and sugar by squishing it with their hands
• Allow kids to measure ingredients and pour them into the recipe with your guidance
• Let your kids draw designs in extra flour (put down parchment or wax paper first)
• Add food coloring to different recipes to help kids learn about colors and mixing
• Let your kids decorate cookies and cupcakes with frosting, sprinkles, candy, or other treats
• Show your kids how to crimp the edges of a pie and let them do it for you
• Put ingredients into a re-sealable bag and let your kid mix it with their hands
• Ask kids to help you figure out how to double or half a recipe before measuring
• Find no-bake recipes and help your kids walk through making the food from beginning to end
The level of help in the kitchen should be based on your child’s age and ability. Younger kids have fun watching and playing, while older children want to be more hands on and participate in making the final product. You know your child best, so think about what they are ready for when you get ready cook.
There are many resources, classes, and tips both online and in the Phoenix area to help make learning to cook fun and relevant to your children. Do a little homework, get out some of your favorite recipes, and then invite your kids to join you in the kitchen!
Be sure to check out Ladybug’s Blog at ladybugsblog.com for more articles and recommendations for fun, educational and interesting things to do with kids everywhere in Arizona.