Cooking as a family has been one of our most enjoyable celebratory activities. Be it the nightly family dinner or an extended family feast, the joy in sharing a meal goes far beyond the table.
From the time our son was a toddler, he would join in the culinary action. At first, his involvement meant smashing tomatoes with a plastic knife, while eating slices of avocado left laying within reach. As he grew, his skills progressed until, as a teen, he mastered whole meals. On leaving home, his ‘going away’ present was a hand-written cookbook of his favourite recipes, a treasured item that has since weathered a few storms.
There are many reasons why we should teach children to cook:
Cooking brings families together as much as ‘playing together’’ does. It’s a fun family time where everyone contributes to a common goal, teaching team work, sharing and service to others.
Cooking is a sensory experience that builds communication between parent and child. It’s ‘bonding’ time in a similar way to spending ‘reading aloud’ time together – a creative pursuit involving all the senses, developing sensory awareness and decision-making. It’s also a time to casually share what’s going on in their lives while focussed on another task.
Cooking builds skills. The simple preparation tasks given to a young child can progress to more complex tasks as fine motor skills and comprehension grow. So many transferable skills can be learned through cooking: maths, reading, science, language, weighing and measuring, following instructions, problem solving and budgeting.
Cooking builds responsibility and self-esteem. Involvement and skill mastery give opportunities for adult praise, boosting the child’s self-worth. As a potentially dangerous activity, cooking is also a practical way to teach responsibility for their own and others’ safety.
Cooking builds food knowledge and appreciation. When kids cook, they learn about nutrition, complementary flavours, the origins of food and different cultures. It’s imparting the knowledge of healthy home cooking, balanced meals including a variety of foods, fruits and vegetables, and how they work together to fuel bodies and minds. By being included in the food choice and ‘ownership’ of the meal through its preparation, a child is more likely to eat the meal.
Cooking with kids is a fun activity that o easily under-rated. It gives children important lifelong skills, increasing their independence, food knowledge and appreciation.
NOTE: This article was published in The Sun on 3 April 2018.