Food is one thing that is guaranteed to bring everyone together and cooking with your family is a great way to spend some quality time. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the ability and confidence to cook and prepare their own meals and it has been found that children who help out in the kitchen improve on their development skills in early childhood and are more likely to be healthier than their peers as they grow.
Encouraging your children to want to help out in the kitchen is all part and parcel of being a parent and learning how to pique your children’s interests. With that in mind, here are some tips that you can use to help your children become more interested in cooking and wanting to help out in the kitchen.
All children are different and when it comes to encouraging them to have interest in the kitchen, it’s important to consider their age and current skill set. Whilst there aren’t many ways babies can help out in the kitchen, just getting them used to the space and the different noises and smells can be hugely beneficial. If your baby is in a highchair, then sit them in there whilst you are in the kitchen and try to create different sensory experiences for them. You could give them different foods to play around with that have different colours and textures, such as broccoli florets, sweet potato and pepper strips, or let them make noise with a wooden spoon and pan.
For toddlers, let them help wash fruits and vegetables, fill measuring cups to pour into a bowl or stir ingredients together. You could ask them to count out ingredients to help develop their math skills, or talk through the recipe together to build on their conversation skills.
For older children, they can help with a wider variety of tasks, such as stirring pots on the hob (with supervision), having a go at chopping and dicing ingredients using a child-friendly knife and sifting flour into a bowl.
One of the best parts about cooking is getting to try out new things and find new ingredients. A great way to encourage your children to help in the kitchen is to ask them their opinion on things, such as their favourite foods, fruits or vegetables and how they would like to use them in the dish, or ask them what recipe they would like to create. Some ideas might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s important to give them the chance to be creative and, you never know, their suggestions could be a hit!
When your children help out in the kitchen, it’s also just as important to teach them good kitchen habits, too. Baking a cake or cooking a noodle dish is good for building on their skills, but they aren’t the only lessons you can teach in the kitchen. Use cooking as an opportunity to teach your children about things such as tidying up or even chemistry and how some ingredients react with others. This way, your children will see the task of cooking as a much bigger picture than just making food and will teach them valuable skills for life.
Remember, you want your children to enjoy being in the kitchen and, when they are young, this is best nurtured by allowing them to have fun and experiment. Sure, having a selection of biscuits before mealtimes isn’t to be encouraged daily, but if they are biscuits that they have helped make, then let them try their creations!
Even if you have 10 minutes to kill on a rainy afternoon, getting out any odd bits and bobs from your baking cupboard and letting them go wild on a selection of bakery products helps to keep them interested in baking! Remember, they will make more mess than if you were cooking or baking alone, but in a few years, when they’re whipping up dishes out of nowhere and cleaning up after themselves, you’ll feel super proud!