Introducing kids to cooking
Teaching your little one to cook can be such a rewarding experience for both of you. With a few tips on what to expect, you’ll be cooking up a storm together before you know it!
Despite seeming like a daunting task, educating your children about food and cooking is something that will set them up for their whole lives. So many skills are exercised throughout the process of learning to cook, including maths, literacy and problem-solving. Though it may not seem as important a part of your child’s education as science subjects or languages, learning to cook is an incomparable life skill that will equip your child with the ability to sustain themselves in a healthy way. It will also enable them to gain a deeper insight into what foods are unhealthy and how to make healthy decisions around food.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Don’t worry, bringing your little ones into the kitchen doesn’t need to be a stressful or worrying time. In order for this not to feel like a chore, cooking needs to be presented to them as a fun-filled activity. Here are a few ways to introduce cooking to your kids in a manageable way.
Most parents claim that, as much as they’d like to cook with their children, they’re simply too busy. While it often feels that this is the case, that’s usually due to overestimating the time it will actually take. Nobody is asking you to have your child at your side as you cook every meal. Instead, consider involving your child in the preparation of one meal a week. Weekends are usually best, as the morning time rush or the weekday evening time slump aren’t the most suitable times.
A weekend breakfast can be a great first meal to try with your little ones. It can teach lots of the basics and isn’t too complicated. From measuring out the right amount of oats and water to make porridge, to whipping up the perfect scrambled eggs on toast or concocting a nutritious smoothie, your child will learn lots of cooking skills that can then be applied to more challenging meals.
Patience is a virtue
When your child is helping out in the kitchen, patience is absolutely key. While it may be a slow process watching your little one chop an onion, it’s necessary that they are given the time they need to do this and that you don’t do it for them. Over time, they will grow more accustomed to the process and, as their skill level increases, the time they need will decrease. It helps to remember that the main goal of cooking with your child is not to produce a meal for the family (you can do that alone!) but to bring them into the world of preparing and cooking meals. There are countless skills required in the kitchen that us mothers take for granted, thanks to years of hard work!
We all started in the same place and, in order for your child to become a culinary maestro, they need the time and the space to figure it all out. That includes making mistakes! Things go wrong in the kitchen, especially when one of the chefs is a novice. It’s your job as the parent to expect the unexpected and correct any errors without criticism or complaint. So plan ahead and set aside more time than you would normally need!
Expanding the palate
It’s not unusual for some children to be picky eaters. Whether it’s the flavour, the texture or even the colour of the food, it can bring about absolute refusal from your child. Being exposed to food in a different context through cooking can shine a new light on a variety of foods for children. Washing and chopping vegetables, and feeling them in your hands can really take the mystery out of them. Don’t be surprised if your little one becomes much more amenable to trying a wider variety of food after spending some time in the kitchen.
In cases where your child is still not interested in eating some of the food, don’t fret. This is primarily a learning exercise that is teaching them lifelong skills. Be sure to include at least one item that your child enjoys eating, so that they’re able to enjoy at least some of what they’ve helped to make. They will eventually develop their palate, get used to different flavours and textures and seek out new and different foods to try.
Good to go
Lots of parents feel that they will need to purchase a range of child-friendly cooking equipment before they get started. However, you already successfully make all your meals in the kitchen, using the equipment you have at your disposal. While safety is the top priority, there may not be any need for specialist utensils if you teach your child carefully and supervise them closely. You might need a small stool so that they can also reach the countertop. Alternatively, set them up on a little table that can function as their own preparation station. Teaching them how to safely use a knife and how to clean as they go will give your little one a strong foundation to grow from.
SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Cooking is an invaluable life skill that is arguably on a par with reading and writing. Introducing your child to the kitchen from a young age is something they will thank you for in later years. Plus, it’s an opportunity to spend quality time together! Preparing a meal and breaking bread with loved ones is a bonding activity as old as time. So don’t be afraid to begin with your child – it might become your new favourite part of the week!