5 Reasons to Cook with Kids

I have been thinking about writing a blog about cooking with kids for a long time, but something keeps holding me back: I avoid cooking whenever possible. 😊 My kids will not hesitate to tell you that daddy is a better (and more gracious) cook than I am. So, I dedicate this blog to him, and to all of you who take on the huge, and often thankless task of nourishing your families.

That said, I am no stranger to working in the kitchen with children. And the kitchen is a wonderful place to connect with our kids and sneak in some embedded learning while we’re at it!

Below are 5 KITS-inspired reasons to include kids in our kitchen activities.

Kids LOVE to help. When children get to a certain age, their brains are wired to want to help their parents. It can be tempting to distract them, or send them out of the kitchen so we can get the job done faster (and understandably so, given the number of hours in a day!). However, if we work WITH their desire to help by giving them meaningful tasks that they are able to do, the long-term benefits for both parent and child can outweigh the difficulties. Fostering a child’s desire to help strengthens connections and leads to more willingness to help in the future.

Early math concepts. Cooking is a great way to introduce kids to early math skills and concepts such as:

  • Counting – “We are using 5 carrots in this soup, let’s count them. 1, 2….”  and when setting the table, “How many forks will you need to put on the table?”.
  • Measuring – introduces the concept of fractions and units such as cups, teaspoons, etc., which item is heavier/lighter, bigger/smaller?, how many of these do you think it will take to fill a cup?, full/half-full/empty.
  • Proportions – “We will add 2 cups of water for every cup of rice.”
  • Sorting – For example, have your child sort the vegetables by color, size, or shape
  • Number recognition – Ask your child to name the numbers you see on the recipe or food packages
  • Time – “This will bake for 15 minutes. That’s how long it takes us to get to grandma’s house.” “The batter needs to stay in the refrigerator overnight. We will take it out in the morning. ” 

Early language skills. Any time you engage with your child you are helping them build important language skills. Cooking together provides many special opportunities to talk with your child, say out loud what you are doing, and ask questions that help build vocabulary and expressive language skills.

  • Say out loud what you are doing – this is a great way for children to learn how to carry out tasks (and why)
  • Ask questions – “Tell me the different colors you see here.” “Where do you think we will put the batter after we mix it?”
  • Conversation and self-expression – your interactions with your child surely will not be limited to what you are cooking! The kitchen is a great place to let conversations bloom.
  • Vocabulary – sauté, whisk, pre-heat (“What do you think PRE-heat could mean?”, spatula, simmer
  • Prepositions – on top of, under, between, inside, around
  • Following a recipe
  • Making a list
  • Description – “How does it taste?” “What is the texture like?”

Self-confidence and sense of contribution. Having confidence and satisfaction in their abilities is very important for kids. And knowing that they can perform tasks in the kitchen and contribute to the things that need to be done for the family is a really powerful way to help children develop self-esteem and build independence. Time together in the kitchen is also another really great way to bolster their protective positive childhood experiences

Be curious about different cultures. Cooking (or eating) traditional dishes from other cultures provides a chance to talk about what you know about the places where those dishes originated and even do a little digging to find out more, if you are curious or want to cultivate curiosity. You might read books or watch videos about the history of the dish and the culture of the people who created it. This is definitely going to be my family’s next fun learning project. I can’t wait to get started!

For more ideas, recipes, tips for cooking with kids, and even a cooking with kids cookbook, Cooking With Kids may be an inspiring resource.

Whatever the outcome, enjoy the process! Have fun and bon appétit. 

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