What is one of the best gifts you can give your kids? Wisdom? An education? Here’s something you may not have thought about: A love for cooking. Whether it’s playing with their toy cookware sets or helping you in the kitchen, this activity gives much of what children require for optimal development: A chance to be creative, learning to apply math skills, finding a passion and most of all…having fun. In an age where most kids’ definition of fun is staring at the computer or mobile screens, teaching your family about cooking isn’t only a ‘nice idea’, but a necessity.
So, how do you get it right?
Equipped for Success
Teaching kids them how to handle the tools of the trade, such as kitchen utensils, appliances, and cookware empowers them to develop independence and proficiency. They will feel confident and capable, allowing them greater scope to explore their creativity. Help them feel familiar in the kitchen so their culinary imaginations can be let loose.
Embrace the Mess
Before you start you need to give yourself a pep talk: Make the decision that you’ll allow your kitchen to get messy. Eventually, you’ll teach them to keep a neat area. However, for now, let them explore the flavors, textures, and aromas without worrying about how the countertops look. They must feel comfortable in a space you previously claimed as your own, so let them mark their territory and help you with the clean up later.
Raise Young Explorers
You want your children to look forward to each cooking session. While kids need boundaries, they also need some freedom to move. Your recipes may serve as the foundation, but be ready for—and encourage—some experimentation:
- Allow them to add ingredients they suggest. This will also help them realize which flavors and substances don’t go together.
- Allow them to plate the food when it’s done.
- Let them taste all through the process so they can experience it with all their senses.
Perhaps you can’t imagine your small child working safely in your kitchen. How will he or she pick up heavy bowls or roll out dough with your large rolling pin? So, make it kid friendly and invest in kids’ sized equipment. This will make the kitchen feel less daunting and provide a sense of ownership and importance.
Meet Your Food
Spark your children’s interest in food by showing them where the ingredients that they use come from. This will add a whole extra dimension to their experience in the kitchen. An expedition to the local farmer’s market or a nearby farm creates a connection between the food on the plate and its source. Allow them to pick that day’s ingredients while you’re out, and they’ll want to repeat the journey often.
Gardening is Fun!
Take this one step further and help them grow their own ingredients such as vegetables or start a herb garden. The excitement of using their own produce for a meal will inspire, motivate and serve as an exciting learning opportunity. Children also love having responsibilities, such as watering the plants. The job of looking after the gardens and seeing whose plants are the biggest will add extra dimensions of fun to the process.
Enjoy the Results
How do you keep momentum once they’ve started? Enjoy each meal they offer you. Yes, sometimes you’ll have to smile and praise a pile of charred or undercooked goop. However, they’ll beam with glee when they think they’ve made your day.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your oven mitts and get ready for an exciting adventure!