When my children first showed an interest in helping bake or cook, a few things typically happened. Something would get spilled or dropped. Too much baking soda would be added. Muffin batter would ooze out of the muffin cup onto the pan. I would inevitably get annoyed. After all, on my own I could do these things MUCH faster and tidier. But is that all that matters?
I think there are times when we don’t want our children cooking beside us. If we get in the door at 5 and everyone is hungry and cranky and short on patience, I would definitely take a hard pass on any kind of assistance.
But according to research, there do need to be consistent opportunities for kids to get involved in food preparation. Here are a few compelling reasons you may want to clear some space at the counter for your kids:
It makes them more receptive to new foods: Kids who participate in meal prep are more likely to try the foods they make! If you have a picky eater (which I do) this is super good news. When kids are able to use all of their senses to explore something new like, heaven forbid, the skin on an apple ( I wish I was kidding) they may feel more of an interest in actually TRYING it.
It helps their emotional development: There is nothing worse than spending time cooking a meal and having your child NOT appreciate it. When children become involved, they learn first hand that cooking takes time, care, and patience. At our house, when a meal is finished, we always thank the person who made it. My children LOVE when they are on the receiving end of that thank you.
It teaches them organization and time management: Mis en Place is a thing for a reason. Chaos in the kitchen is not fun. Learning to be prepared and organized are skills that help make things run smoothly and efficiently. These skills can be applied to all aspects of life with excellent results!
It encourages healthy eating: We know that meals prepared from scratch are healthier because we have total control over the quality of ingredients used.One study found that children who learn to cook before they are 8 years old are 50% MORE likely to prepare at least 5 meals from scratch when they reach adulthood!
It teaches them an essential and beautiful life-skill: Food is a source of energy, of course, but it can be so much more. Knowing how to cook gives us independence, confidence, and a really enjoyable and delicious way of bringing people together. The food we eat is part of our identity and culture. It’s part of our family history. Don’t we all have that favourite meal that our grandmother prepared for us? Food can transform and transport us. It’s not just calories in calories out. If our children don’t learn to cook, we are denying them their place in their culinary and cultural heritage.
When we take the time to teach our children kitchen skills we are giving them a gift that will have a positive impact on the rest of their lives. And, as an added bonus, one day when they have acquired some real skills, they won’t just be “helping” us in the kitchen, they will be preparing us dinner. Now imagine that…