Meta Description: Cooking is more than a practical skill to learn; it can be a valuable opportunity for you to bond with your children. Education, self-confidence, and lasting family memories are just some of the benefits that make cooking with kids well worth the extra effort. It’s a fun way to build a better relationship with them.
Eight Ways Cooking With Kids Will Strengthen Your Bond With Them
Planning and preparing meals for a busy family can be a daunting chore each day. It is understandable why parents often prefer to work in the kitchen without the children or run out to grab a quick meal on the go. However, cooking with kids does not need to be a burden. It can often lead to a stronger bond with them, provide an educational experience, and give them a much-needed skill for later in life.
If you have found yourself struggling to help your kids with the homework they bring home, perhaps cooking with them will boost your confidence in your role as a teacher. Cooking involves many different skills, including reading, math, and science. All of these come together as children help read the recipe, measure out the ingredients, and understand the relationship with various temperatures and how your meal ultimately turns out. What better way to teach children fractions and counting as they help you measure and divide ingredients, learn sequencing as they follow each step, or see the results if they do things out of order? Cooking gives kids hands-on experience that can be a valuable learning opportunity.
Too often children don't understand the connection between their meals and where the food comes from. Cooking time is a great opportunity to discuss how milk gets from the cow to your refrigerator or what a rutabaga is. You can discuss food delivery systems, such as by truck, rail, or boat, or perhaps talk about the life of a farmer and what they do.
We all learn through sensory experiences, especially children. Cooking is filled with sights, smells, tastes, textures, and even sounds through the crunch of a carrot or the sizzle of bacon. Kids use their senses to learn about the world around them. Often, cooking takes fine motor skills, which children can use and perfect through the process. Learning to judge whether or not a melon is ripe through touch and smell before cutting into it is a useful skill for anyone to have.
By helping cook, your children will also build their vocabularies. They will learn the meaning of words typically not part of their world, such as sauté, scramble, simmer, broil, bake, barbecue, baste, blanch, flambé, fricassee, julienne, and marinate. Let's be honest; you might learn some new words too.
Cooking is a fun way to learn. Of course, the ultimate reward in learning to cook is a delicious meal at the end of the process.
Cooking with your children will help with their education today, and once they are adults, they will have an extremely valuable skill that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Prepackaged foods are often high in saturated fats, sugar, and salt. Cooking at home typically uses more whole foods, which most dieticians will say are a healthier alternative. While your typical fast food fries may have as many as 19 ingredients, you can prepare a healthier, and equally tasty, variation at home with fresh potatoes, oil, and a little salt. The cooking skills you teach your children now could add not only years to their life, but also life to their years. They will remember the example you set for them and hopefully do the same in return with their children, igniting a cycle of better eating habits for all involved.
Whether they admit it or not, children want to feel like they are contributing to the family in a meaningful way. Few things build such confidence as allowing them to help you prepare the evening meal for the entire family. Working as a team will create strong family bonds and actively demonstrate how the collective contributions of many people often produce greater results.
It is likely that mistakes will happen during the cooking process. Use those errors as opportunities to build confidence by showing love and patience. Praise your children throughout the process, and they will quickly crave additional opportunities around the house to show how responsible they are. Feeling important is a basic human need. Allowing your children to help prepare meals is a great tool for fulfilling this desire.
Family memories are more than the well-loved photo albums brought out at holiday gatherings. They are the stories you tell around the campfire or on road trips across the country. If you take the time, cooking with kids is guaranteed to create memories that will last a lifetime. There are few experiences as amusing as remembering the time Billy forgot to put the lid on the blender before he started it or the chocolate chip cookies that more closely resembled hockey pucks than gastronomic masterpieces.
Bringing out Great-Grandma's worn recipe cards handed down to you gives another opportunity to discuss family memories and perhaps share some information about a relative your children may not know. What's the history behind that card? Was it brought from another country when your family immigrated? What were holiday gatherings like when you were a child? Look at the handwriting. Revel in the knowledge that this card was once physically in the hands of a dearly loved relative. Recipes handed down through the generations are like edible family memories. Take the time to enjoy them.
Cooking does not need to be a rigid process restricted to a step-by-step recipe. As your children grow in their cooking skills, it is a great way for them to express their imagination and creativity. They will begin to see the connection with various ingredients and cooking techniques and may feel more confident with trying their own variations. Perhaps your cupboard is missing an ingredient. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss with your child some possible substitutions that you do have. Based on the number of popular cooking shows available to watch these days, it is clear that preparing food has developed into almost a spectator sport and is a highly imaginative activity. People tune in by the millions to watch their favorite chefs throw together fabulous meals with just a handful of ingredients. Here is your chance to play "Iron Chef" with your own little culinary geniuses and watch their imaginations blossom.
Better Eating Habits
Can you blame a child for being a picky eater if you simply plop down the finished product in front of him or her? All of the ingredients mixed together, chopped or mashed, leaves a child to wonder what exactly he or she is being forced to eat. If a child is part of the meal preparation, he or she will see the ingredients in their original state and better understand how everything came together. He or she will know how the potatoes turned into fluffy white clouds or why those little green bits in the bread are actually zucchini.
When they help you cook, children will have a sense of pride in the food on the table and will likely have a natural desire to eat the food they helped you make. Who can resist digging into their own creation? Obviously, cajoling your children to clean their plates, or punishing them if they don't, does little to help you bond with them.
If you start cooking with kids when they are young, their skills will improve as they grow older. You may even be able to turn over full meal preparations to them from time to time. Families are busier than ever these days. Think of how useful it could be if, for example, you are running late from work and your teenager is able to start the evening meal before you get home. He or she also could scramble his or her own egg quickly if he or she needs to get to soccer practice while you're tied up with something else. As mentioned earlier, this could be another valuable way to improve your child's responsibility and self-confidence.
Cooking can take time. Bonding can take time. Why not accomplish both goals through the same activity? Time given to a person is an expression of love. Spending time cooking shows a family member shows that you value him or her, which builds his or her self-esteem. Various studies over the years have shown the positive link between spending time with children and how it impacts their academic performance, behavior, substance use and abuse.
Talking to your children is not always easy. Conversations can feel forced and unnatural. Cooking time can be a more instinctive strategy to bring up difficult topics and get them to open up while they are focused on the details of the recipe. Parenting can be stressful, but if you feel more connected with your child and have created an open and safe space for conversation to flow, it can actually relieve the stress both from you as a parent and from your child.
Life is not about the material goods you accumulate, but rather the experiences. Those experiences can only be gathered if you take the time to do so. Cooking with kids is the perfect way to do that. You may not remember every meal or recipe, but your kids won't forget the time you spent together.