For those of you with toddlers and young kids – do you cook with them? If the answer is no – well, you really should!
Cooking helps young ones learn and practice some basic math concepts and build language skills. The experience of preparing meals with you helps build their self-confidence and lays the foundation for healthy eating habits.
Sure, it makes it messier, and take longer, and it’s not something that you can do for each and every meal. It may take flexibility and extra simple prep work, but with the right expectations and a little patience, your time in the kitchen with your little ones can be an adventure you’ll all enjoy.
- Build basic skills. Cooking is math! Cooking is science! Cooking is language arts! You can help your child practice basic math skills by doing something as simple as counting eggs or pouring water into a measuring cup. You can ask what comes first, second, and third or count together as you spoon dough onto a cookie sheet. When you read a recipe together, you’re introducing new words to your child’s vocabulary and promoting literacy. Following steps in the recipe can work on listening skills.
- Encourage new tastes. We all know young children can be picky eaters, bringing them into the kitchen to cook can help get them to open up to new tastes. Encourage kids to taste new ingredients you’re working with and talk about what they like and how healthy foods make a body grow. I find that pride of what they created will often make my 2 try new and surprising things. Sure, they may just taste it and not want more, but, at least they tried! Have to start somewhere!
- Help young kids explore with their senses. Kids learn by exploring with their senses and the kitchen is an ideal place to do that. Invite them to listen to the whir of the mixer, pound dough and watch it rise, smell it baking in the oven, and finally taste the warm bread fresh from the oven. If it smells good, looks appealing, and is easy to eat they may just be willing to try it!
- Boost confidence. Young children love to show what they can do and working in the kitchen provides opportunities to gain a sense of accomplishment. If they helped assemble the pizza, let them know that their help was important. When the boys have helped create a meal we always talk about it at the dinner table – reminding them how their efforts and teamwork helped make our delicious meal.
And get this – among the recommendations in a recent American Heart Association report on overweight children and teens were:
- Reducing the number of meals eaten outside the home.
- Having structured times for family meals.
- Offering healthier, low-calorie foods.
- Involving children in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation.
My boys love to help with anything and everything. They are Kings of the juicer, can’t stay away when they see the mixer come out, and if there are eggs to be cracked they’re your men. Sure, we’ve had our share of disasters and messes, but, it’s all part of the process.
But, all those fantastic reasons aside, it’s time spent with your little ones. Time that is all too fleeting. Time that you’ll never have again. Cherish it. Embrace it. Rejoice in it.
What’s a few broken eggs on the floor at the end of the day? That’s what mops (or overzealous dogs) were made for, right?