Cooking is a great skill to teach your kids. It’s something that everyone should learn how to do, at least at a basic level. It’s not an easy lesson to give if your child is nervous about dealing with the heat of the stove or oven, but it’s important. The kids may test your patience as cooking dinner takes longer than usual and they make little mistakes and messes, but they will feel proud of what they’ve accomplished. Here are more reasons you should cook with your kids.
1. It’s time together.
Many families find it hard to make time to be together. School, activities, doing stuff with friends, work, it all adds up. Cooking together is time to talk, not just about what you’re making, but any other topic that comes up.
This is why I prefer to cook with just one of my kids at a time… that and the sheer truth about “too many cooks spoil the broth.” One on one time with any of my kids is a good thing.
2. It’s good for their self esteem.
Kids are really proud of what they’ve accomplished when they cook. They may even brag about it at school. My oldest became more interested in cooking when a group of her middle school aged friends started talking about what their favorites foods to make were. She enjoyed cooking well enough before that, but hadn’t really considered that my offers to teach her more might be worthwhile.
3. It teaches them to be comfortable with heat and kitchen tools.
My kids have all been on the nervous side about cooking due to the heat. As they’ve learned, they’ve discovered that it’s not that hard to work around, and the occasional injury isn’t that bad. My oldest was quite upset the first time she got a burn on her hand – nothing severe, but definitely painful that day – and was relieved when she realized how little discomfort there was the next day.
Cooking also helps them to be more comfortable with knives and other utensils. It takes a little work getting them comfortable, but it’s such a relief to no longer have to cut each child’s meat at mealtimes. Start them early with things that can be safely sliced with a butter knife so they learn technique while dealing with a knife that only rarely does serious damage (butter knives can still hurt someone who’s using them wrong!) and work up to sharper knives as they learn how to cut things better. Guide them through the differences as they cut tougher items.
4. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook.
Kids who have helped to cook a meal are more likely to eat that meal. They made it, after all! It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better odds.
5. Science and math!
Yes, I am that geeky mom who talks science and math with my kids when we cook. I point out that moisture evaporates from eggs when we cook them, and about the boiling point of water. I double or halve recipes when I can with the kids and make them do the math for the ingredients, then explain how cooking times may change. Nothing too pushy, but when I notice it, I explain it or have them try to explain. Chemical reactions are fun to explain too!
6. It encourages reading.
Not only do kids have to read while going through the recipe, you can encourage your kids to read through cookbooks and pick out recipes they want to try. Be prepared to say “no” a lot, however. Kids will always pick out some extravagant recipes. My son just went through a book on barbecuing, and picked out a bunch of recipes involving crab and lobster for the most part. On our budget, that’s not generally going to happen.
7. It’s a sensory experience.
Cooking food isn’t only about the taste at the dinner table. There are wonderful sights and smells, and changes in texture through the entire process. My youngest has something of an obsession with smells, and this makes cooking a real treat for her. She often wants to smell what I’m doing, even more than she wants to look at it.
8. Familiarity with real food.
Food from a box isn’t all wrong – most people resort to it at times, but it just doesn’t compare to freshly prepared food. Helping to prepare meals allows your children to see where their meals come from, and what it looked like at first. They may find some of it gross (how my kids hate the sight and feel of raw chicken!), but it becomes something they enjoy after it’s cooked.
9. Eventually they’ll be a real help in the kitchen.
Teaching your child any new skill means you have to slow things down to their pace. It’s not convenient at the moment to teach your child to cook, but the day will come when he or she will be able to cook a meal all alone, and you won’t have to help. You’ll probably have days where that will be really nice.
10. It’s a life skill.
Ever meet an adult who simply cannot cook? I have. It’s not that uncommon for college age kids to only be able to cook food in a microwave, and maybe spaghetti. Your kids will be glad to be able to prepare better food for themselves at a lower cost than they’d pay to eat out.