Cooking with kids: More than just food

Cooking with kids can be a great way to spend time together as a family, and can also teach important life skills along the way.

Cooking with your children offers huge opportunities to help them learn and have fun.  Photo credit: Cummings.

Cooking with your children offers huge opportunities to help them learn and have fun. Photo credit: Cummings.

Helping in the kitchen builds confidence, self-esteem and skills of independence. Most kids feel proud and important when they help prepare food. Sharing family tasks helps children feel that they belong in the family. Children are also more likely to try new foods if they have a chance to help prepare them. Kitchen time offers special parenting time. Cooking together creates closer bonds and lifelong memories. It’s also a chance to talk and hear what your child has to share.

Cooking with your children offers huge opportunities to help them learn and have fun at the same time. Kitchen tasks give youth a chance to measure, count and see food change. Small muscle skills develop, when your child uses his or her hands to help with kitchen tasks. These skills are important in early math and science learning. You can help boost literacy skills by reading recipes and food packages. Talk about what you are doing throughout the experience. These tasks not only help to teach children new words and symbols, but they learn important nutrition facts and how to follow directions. It is important to talk about the food using all the senses. Ask questions as you go, such as: What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? If it is safe to do so, what does it taste like? Children learn best when all their senses are engaged in the experience.

Some important tips Michigan State University Extension says to keep in mind:

  • Cleanup teaches responsibility and is part of many creative, messy things we do. If your child makes a mess, it’s okay. Youngsters don’t have the same muscle coordination and skills that adults do.
  • Working together will sometimes make meals take longer to prepare, but it’s worth letting your child help. Kitchen time is learning time that you share together.
  • Start slowly, with stirring, pouring, shaking and tearing, then let your child spread, mix and knead. Once they get good at that let them cut, grate and measure. You will be amazed watching your child’s skills develop right before your eyes.

A few safety tips:

  • Fasten back long hair.
  • Wear clean clothes, short sleeves work best.
  • Start by washing hands and the work surface.
  • Taste with a clean spoon. Remember, the licked spoon goes in the sink, not back in the bowl.
  • Don’t nibble cookie dough or cake batter, as it contains raw eggs.
  • An adult should help with hot surfaces and sharp objects.
  • Work at a table or child height level surface.
  • Walk slowly and carry food and utensils with care.
  • Wipe up spills right away.

This holiday break could be the perfect opportunity to cook in the kitchen with kids. One last tip: Have fun together and make memories that will last a lifetime!