Children enjoy creative play, it’s part of the learning process so why not get your children to play in the kitchen?
Sure they’ll make a mess and there’s a good chance that what they come up with will be inedible but learning how to cook is one of the important skill which people are tending to lose, preferring instead to rely on ready meals and fast food without having any idea of the nutritional quality their food may or may not have.
If you let your children get involved in cooking with you you’re killing multiple birds with one stone, you get to supervise them, have some fun, get some help with the cooking and they learn some basics about how to put a meal together, details such as timing, knowing when a joint of meat is cooked, knowing when something’s gone bad.
Not only that but if you have a fussy child then letting them either put their own meal together or helping you out, seeing where all the different elements and ingredients have come from will help them to think about trying new foods.
Visit any supermarket and you’ll see young adults filling their carts with jars and cans of food while the mysteries of the fruit and vegetable aisles remain as elusive as the elixir of eternal youth. Not only is it expensive to shop for ready made processed foods all the time it’s unhealthy and limits your choices down to what’s in the cupboard. Bunches of herbs, spices and fresh meat and vegetables should encourage the imagination and ergo a balanced, varied diet.
Even if your children are really small they can still help by cracking eggs, getting things out of cupboards or the fridge. As they get older and their maths and arm muscles develop they can help with measuring, mashing and mixing. If you’re cooking with very small kids, choose recipes which will only take a few minutes, their tiny minds can’t concentrate for long, if you have a picky child, get them to help you make foods that they do like, such as pizza, sausages or fish fingers and then get them to help you to make other things using them as ingredients. Use your imagination and encourage them to use theirs too. Chocolate and cheese sandwiches sound revolting but can actually taste delicious, even if it doesn’t work at least you’ll have had fun and learned something.
Getting your little ones to help around the kitchen will also help teach them about hygiene by getting them to wash utensils, food and their hands, it will also teach them about responsibility, cleaning up their own spills and making sure the rubbish gets recycled properly rather than just dumping it all in the trash.
When your child gets to about 8 or 10 you could hand over the preparation of one meal a week over to them. Supervise, help choosing recipes and the use of sharp implements. The first couple of weeks might be a little nerve wracking for you but after a month or so you’ll look forward to the evening when the kids cook so you can put your feet up and relax!
The most important thing when cooking with kids (as help, not ingredients) is that it might take a while longer than usual and the results might look like a monkey’s lunch but provided it’s edible they’ve learned something and you’ve had time together doing something creative and productive. Children develop self reliance, math, and reading skills just from the recipe books, they will also learn cooperation and that food doesn’t just come from a can.
Big Daddy Cash is a feature writer who enjoys cooking with the children. Getting them to learn how to use kitchen accessories safely without falling into chest freezers or gassing themselves is all part of a parent’s life.
Image: Flickr.com/Bas Van Uyen