I grew up on farm and watched my mum cook for shearers and farm hands by the dozens. There was always a home baked snack and a hearty meal for dinner. I remember pretending to be her when playing in the cubby house with my little sister and I would don an apron and mix up some delicious delight out of sand, rocks and leaves and make my sister pretend to eat it.
These days, my own children love to cook, though unlike me, they are actually allowed in the real kitchen to do it! We have regular Masterchef cook-offs and my 9 year old son loves to watch Jamie Oliver then help me plan the weekly menu.
And cooking with kids also includes cooking with your teens! Our job as parents is to teach our kids the skills they need to succeed in adulthood. Through my cooking workshop, I have met many teenagers who have never cooked a meal and lack the confidence to give it a try.
Cooking with your kids not only creates a great bond between you, but it teaches valuable life skills that they will carry throughout their lives, making them healthier adults.
So here are my top 10 reasons to cook with your kids
1. Learning to cook helps children to learn about nutrition and healthy eating
Our kids are growing up with highly processed foods at their fingertips, which is a major reason that child obesity is on the rise in Australia. Teaching kids to cook will help instil skills and knowledge that will see them on their way to a happy, healthy adult life.
2. Kids are more likely to eat what they make themselves
Perhaps it’s the enthusiasm of creating something themselves or just the fact that they are able to control something, but they will be more likely to eat whatever they had a hand in making.
3. Kids love to help
They can help contribute to the family and they can feel the importance of helping.
4. They are working together as a team
Whether it is with a parent or with a sibling to get the job done.
5. Cooking teaches them planning and time management skills
Putting a meal on the table means planning ahead. With some guidance, kids can be involved in choosing ingredients and planning meals around them. Cooking also requires careful timing – bake a cake too long and it may burn, or not long enough and it won’t be cooked. Time management skills are useful throughout life, and it is never too early to learn them.
6. Practice creativity and imagination
Kids cooking activities are a great way to express themselves and enjoy their creations. Encourage your child to use their imagination to express themselves in the kitchen. This gives them the chance to experiment and improve their problem solving skills. Recipes that list optional ingredients are a great way to start experimenting. Even though things can get a bit messy when little hands pitch in, it’s worth it to see a proud, confident child show off her culinary achievements.
7. It helps to broaden their tastes
Cooking with your kids is a great way to encourage them to try new foods and broaden their palate.
8. Create family time and bonding
Take time to cook with your kids and they will have memories that they, in turn, can pass on to their families. It may take a longer time to get the meal or snack done but the moments with your children will be priceless. (Just remember to have patience – don’t worry about flour on the floor or spilled milk).
9. Cooking will help reinforce school learning
Following a recipe means learning how to measure accurately, and it illustrates fractions in a practical way. Cooking also gives kids a chance to marvel at science in action – how does bread rise or watching solids become solids. Measuring, vocabulary, list making, reading – it’s all happening in the kitchen!
10. Boost their self esteem
If your child needs a boost of self confidence, cooking in the kitchen will do just that. They are accomplishing a task, learning something important and contributing to the family.
So yes, it’s messy and takes time, but the pay-off is that your child will learn a valuable life skill, boost their self-esteem and become familiar with new tastes. Take it slow and allow them the freedom to make mistakes, choose their ingredients and I promise you, they will love you for it!