Children are programmed to imitate adults, so we love to get them into the kitchen as young as possible. They’ll learn a whole range of important life skills that will translate into healthy habits later on.
Too often, I see parents relegate children off to the playroom while they do the important things. We are all short on time and it’s often easier to do things on our own, but getting your kids involved and into the kitchen at a very young age pays off tenfold. So, don’t think twice, and trust them with something they don’t expect to be trusted with.
1. It’s a fantastic way to spend some quality time together.
Dinner time doesn’t have to start with the plates hitting the table. Get the whole family involved in the preparation. Not only will it divvy up the workload and give kids a supervised hands-on experience, it will also give you a chance to catch up on each others busy lives.
2. It’s fun to watch children discover new flavors.
There’s a whole world of tastes just waiting to be discovered beyond chicken fingers and ice cream. Trying new flavors doesn’t have to be a major production. Keep it simple – agree to have the whole family try one new item each time you make a run to the store or farmer’s market. It might be a spice you’ve never seen before or just a funny-shaped vegetable. They might not all be winners, but you just might find a new family favorite.
3. It will boost your kids confidence.
Kids feel more and more empowered with every new skill they possess, and there are few skills more useful than learning how to feed yourself. If kids know they don’t have to wait for mom to have a free second to fix them a snack, there is a good chance they’ll skip the chips and do some experimenting with their newfound talents. It may not be gourmet, but it’ll taste all the better for having made it themselves.
4. These skills last a lifetime.
They’re small peas now, but eventually, they’re going to grow up and have to fend for themselves. While all the other students in their dorm are scrounging up change for pizza, your child will be whipping up a healthy, hearty batch of stew or a pasta primavera for all of his or her roomies. Hello, instant popularity!
5. Junk food companies don’t care about your kids.
With all the candy, snack, and fast food advertising out there, it’s not as if kids are getting much outside encouragement to eat their veggies. Healthy eating begins at home. It’s up to you to show them why it’s much cooler to reach for a carrot than for a cookie.
6. It’s great to have a family ritual.
Sometimes it might seem like the world is stacked against families who want to spend a little time together. Coordinate your calendars, switch off your cellphones, and designate a night of the week for a no-interruption family dinner. It doesn’t matter if it’s BBQ Chicken Saturday or Veggie Lasagna Sunday – so long as everyone pitches in and sits down together, chances are, they carry on the tradition with their own kids someday.
7. They’ll feel like they’re contributing.
Even if they have just stirred the pot or snapped the beans, the pickiest family members will be much more eager to try every dish on the table if they have had a hand in the making. No matter if it’s an ingredient the’d usually shy away from, there’s no way they’ll resist sampling their own handiwork.
8. You’re making new memories.
Remember the time you spent in the kitchen chatting with your mom, dad, or grandparent while you cooked up an elaborate weekend meal? Whether or not you have those fond remembrances, don’t you want your kids to? For the rest of their lives, when they smell your signature marinara sauce, or get a taste of some home-made kombucha, they’ll be thinking of you, and those warm, special times together.
9. You’ll keep family history alive.
So much of family culture and identity is tied to food traditions. And, as older generations pass on, it’s up to the younger ones to pick up the whisk. Celebrity chefs and cooking shows come and go, but Grandma’s pasta recipe and Uncle Steve’s old-country goulash will stand the test of time.
10. You just might get a nice surprise.
Yes, cooking with your kids is all about arming your kids with everything they need for a happy, healthy culinary life; but the more they learn, the better your chances are of waking up to a birthday breakfast in bed or a surprise lasagna dinner made with lots of love.
Ready to learn more about our culinary classes + workshops? Interested in sponsoring a cooking class for kids? Visit us at www.wholekidsculinary.org