Most children have phases during childhood when baking or cooking is a keen interest. This natural curiosity provides parents with the perfect opportunity to capitalize on a great learning experience--the art and science of cooking.
Sadly, many American adults do not cook, citing lack of knowledge, not enough time to cook or shop, or having someone else in charge of cooking. In a world where home cooked meals equal healthier fare, teaching kids to cook becomes a critical element of parenting.
It's never too late, or too early, to begin the learning curve in the kitchen. For instance, during infancy, babies watch and absorb the activities of their surroundings. Naming foods aloud and hearing the whir of the blender stimulates baby's learning. The toddler figures out how things work and learns from simple tasks such as pouring and mixing ingredients together. Not a tidy task to take on, but nevertheless, a fun and stimulating one for toddlers. Preschoolers have better fine motor skills that allow cracking eggs, and measuring dry and wet ingredients. Grade-schoolers can take it up a notch with basic techniques like whisking and chopping, and cooking over a hot stove (with supervision). Tweeners can further hone knife skills and begin to independently follow recipes. Lastly, teens, who naturally want more freedom, can gain it in the kitchen with simple, pleasing recipes like homemade cookies to more complex aspirations such as cooking an entire meal for the family.
Not only are kids of all ages interested in what goes on in the kitchen, there are many benefits from getting involved. Here's just a short list of the wisdom that gets passed on when kids cook:
1. Math Skills: Doubling a recipe requires addition (or multiplication) skills, halving it requires division, and recipe fractions like 1/2 cup and 3/4 teaspoon bring math applications into the kitchen. Often, kids don't recognize they are practicing math!
2. Comprehension: Reading and understanding step-by-step directions, adding ingredients in sequence, and techniques such as folding and blending, are all important components to yielding the finished food product. Helping your child fine tune his reading comprehension skills at the same time doesn't hurt!
3. Real Life Science: Cooking is a science experiment. Too much salt, baking powder, not enough flour, or the wrong timing and you're likely to have a flop on your hands. Cooking provides an opportunity for kids to get hands-on experience with basic science.
4. Self-Esteem: Cooking allows kids to get instant feedback, which helps them learn and grow in self-knowledge. Learning a new skill, such as baking or cooking, is known to help grade school children with healthy self-esteem development.
5. Communication: A relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen offers an opportunity to talk, about anything! Parents can take advantage of this, especially with teens, as communication is a key element to raising a well-adjusted, healthy child.
6. Life Skills: Cooking is a life skill, much like driving a car, learning to read, or swimming. As children grow and get closer to adulthood, the job of feeding becomes theirs. Start the cooking lessons at a young age so the transition to adult cook is easy later on.
7. Fun! Last but not least, cooking is fun! Having fun with your child in the kitchen builds positive memories, good vibes, and good food.With all the benefits of teaching kids to cook, and no limits with starting, what are you waiting for?