I have been cooking with kids for many years now and I have found that children start showing an interest in cooking around the age of 2 (or even earlier). When I started cooking in my daughter’s kindergarten class a few years ago, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to find just as many little boys as girls that were eager to start our next cooking project.Cooking together is becoming a lost tradition. People my age have wonderful memories of cooking with their grandmothers or parents. But will our children be able to say the same thing? It is becoming more and more difficult for this tradition to continue today, with the busy lives parents and kids lead.
Cooking is just one great way of spending time working on something together. It helps slow us down from our distracting, hyper- stimulating daily life, so that we can just enjoy being together. I find that when people cook together, all sorts of wonderful things happen. You take time to talk, laugh, and even eat together. Like I said, all sorts of wonderful things can happen.
I feel passionately that everyone benefits when parents spend more time cooking with their young children. I know it sounds silly to feel so strongly about this, but I do.
The Many Benefits of Making Your Kitchen
a Laboratory of Learning
(exerpted from Someone’s in the Kitchen with Mommy)
I won’t lie to you. It will probably be easier for you to cook by yourself. But the short-term payoff is your child’s joy and sense of accomplishment. The long-term payoff is genuine help in the kitchen. Here are some of the other benefits:
- Children are learning practical cooking skills when they help parents cook, and they’re learning other things as well, such as where applesauce comes from, how bubbles in bread are made etc, But probably most important, helping in the kitchen builds confidence. It is very rewarding to work at shaping dough, cutting cookies, or making your personal pizza pie and, only minutes later, to see it turn out terrific, and taste it, too–now that’s what I call instant gratification! Of course a little encouragement and an occasional pat on the back from Mom or Dad never hurt.
- Children are more likely to eat food they helped prepare. Therefore, you stand a better chance of Johnny being interested in healthful food if Johnny actually helped prepare the healthful food. By the way, most of the food activities in Someone’s In The Kitchen With Mommy are reduced in fat and sometimes sugar. And many of the activities help develop an appreciation for fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthful foods.
- Cooking is an educational alternative to television and computer games. Most activities include age-appropriate educational messages and help develop and reinforce age-appropriate skills–eg., counting, recognizing colors or shapes, finger dexterity and coordination, etc. Children at a young age should be using their hands often and experiencing as many different things as possible. The more this takes place, the more meaning words will have when it comes time to learn, write, or read them.
- Children are more likely to be interested in healthful food if they helped prepare it. The earlier you can interest a child in eating healthy, the better. Children develop attitudes about food early in life. If they have fond memories and positive experiences with healthful foods, they will be more likely to continue to choose them as they get older. [One study using mothers' reports of their three-year-olds' control over foods and involvement in food-related activities found that children who were more involved in food-related activities had significantly higher nutrition-awareness scores.]
- Start them young. The toddler and early school-age years are the periods when children are home the most, looking to you to guide them and entertain them. This is the time when your child can more easily develop interests without the distractions that come with school (new friends, computers, Little League, homework, etc.). And besides, toddlers tend to be curious and eager to “get their hands dirty”, making cooking a natural.
For more information about Someone’s in the Kitchen with Mommy, Alphabet Cooking, and Around the World in 80 Recipes, go to Elaine’s Books.