Cooking with school aged kids

Kids who help in the kitchen can learn valuable skills that will assist them both at home and at school.

When preparing a meal, it is certainly easier and faster to do things yourself, so why should you encourage your school-age child to join you in the kitchen? Because lessons learned in the kitchen can benefit your child both at home and in the classroom!

The kitchen can be a learning lab. As your child learns how to crack eggs and stir sauce, he or she is also gaining new reading, math and science skills. Reading recipes is a great way to improve reading comprehension. Counting ingredients, sequencing what gets mixed first-next-last, and measuring with cups and spoons enhances math skills. Learning about hot/cold, floating/sinking, dissolving, melting and freezing helps demonstrate basic science principles.

Cooking teaches your child about healthy eating. Kids are usually interested in conversations about nutrition, so use the kitchen or trip to the grocery store to ask questions like, “What foods could we use to make a really colorful dinner?” Take time to discuss the importance of the different food groups and let your child help plan a healthy menu.

Cooking also fosters responsibility. Good cooks of all ages should understand the basics about food safety so make proper hand washing a priority and demonstrate the importance of clean work surfaces and how to avoid the cross contamination of certain foods. Knowing how to safely handle kitchen utensils and appliances is also an important part of learning to cook so allow your child the opportunity to practice the proper way to handle a sharp knife, operate the microwave and use an oven mitt. Provide supervision by modeling, assisting, observing and providing safety reminders as needed.

Working together in the kitchen helps develop social skills. Learning to work together, take turns and solve problems encourages patience, cooperation and teamwork. Cooking also allows families time to communicate and connect, especially after a long day at school or work.

For more information and resources that focus on cooking with kids of all ages, check out the great resources USDA provides called Choose MyPlate for KidsMichigan State University Extension also offers programs that focus on healthy eating, food safety and healthy lifestyle choices for adults, children and families.  Contact your local MSU Extension office for more information.