Do you remember that feeling of pride the first time you cooked (and ate) your first meal? You’re your kids that same sense of accomplishment by getting them involved in meal preparation. They’ll learn valuable life skills, and as an added bonus, you’ll rack up some quality time together.
Start bringing your child into the kitchen as early as possible. Even babies love playing with pots, pans, measuring cups, and spoons. Let your child observe you as you prepare meals, encouraging a love for the kitchen.
Preschoolers can start getting hands-on experience in the kitchen by learning to spread peanut butter on bread or pour milk on cereal. With supervision, they will be able to make their own breakfast or lunch, which can be great source of pride for kids that age.
As kids get older they learn to do more and more in the kitchen. School-age kids are capable of making sandwiches and salads, and cooking staples like scrambled eggs or pasta—with supervision, of course. Use food prep lessons as an opportunity to teach kitchen safety tips, too:
- Always use potholders to move pots, pans, or baking trays from the oven.
- Never add water to a pan with hot oil—it could splatter you!
- Turn pot handles to the back of the range so you don’t knock them over.
- Wash anything that touched raw meat immediately with hot, soapy water.
- Always ask for help with sharp knives.
- Do not get electrical appliances wet. (Dry your hands first!)
- If something catches fire, don’t put it out with water—call an adult for help, and then put the fire out with an extinguisher or by smothering with a lid.
Learning to cook also teaches your children about nutrition. Read labels and nutritional information together, and talk about what makes each ingredient healthy or interesting in a dish. Showing them how to use healthy ingredients more often and less healthy ingredients sparingly can contribute to lifelong healthy habits.
Cooking pairs nicely with school, too. Chemistry, science, biology, math, vocabulary—it’s all there. Teach your kids why water boils (and at what temperature), or what happens to egg whites when they’re whipped. Reading recipes aids reading comprehension and vocabulary, and measuring ingredients reinforces math skills, like fractions.
Creating nourishing food that tastes good is a wonderful accomplishment for kids at any age. Give your kids the tools they need to embark on a delicious, lifelong journey.