Children are curious and love to imitate adults. One way to let them explore this curiosity is by letting them cook with you. Cooking with your child is a positive way to involve them in their own nutritional development.
When your child sees the cooking process first-hand, they are beginning to understand the food they eat. They appreciate the effort food takes to make, but also get to enjoy the fun parts of cooking too – the ability to create something new!
Children who practice cooking with their parents, even if it’s just helping stir or preparing ingredients, learn all the different parts involved in making a whole meal. They learn how to use different ingredients creatively and learn the potential of an ingredient.
Curb Picky Eating
When your child is in control of what they eat, they are less likely to be picky. When children know exactly what their food is made of, they become more open to those ingredients appearing in other foods as well.
For example, when they see mushrooms go on their favourite pizza, they may be more welcoming to mushrooms in a salad.
The Things They Learn
Children can also learn a lot from cooking. Here are some of the things cooking teaches them:
Children learn about the origins of food when they are cooking. They find out where their food comes from before it becomes what they eat. They are also introduced to the physical properties of food, like when they bake cookies with you and separate the wet ingredients from the dry ones. When children help you cook they understand temperature changes and what that does to food, along with food changing from one state or form to another. They learn when they bake cookies that raw cookie dough is soft, but when you add heat it becomes crispier. With enough practice, children will be able to predict what happens to food when it is cooked.
Cooking gives children awareness of colour, form, shape, and texture. They also gain the opportunity to set the table, or put food on the plate and learn about presentation. This assists in their aesthetic development. They also learn to balance ingredients within a recipe, which can also be applied to creating art.
Children who cook with their parents begin to feel competent and independent when they complete a task on their own. They also learn to respect other’s work – they learn that cooking is not always easy and respect your ability to do this task. They become more open to sharing and taking turns as well as trying new experiences.
Children who cook new meals can learn about regional food and where it comes from, which leads to learning about geography and different places. When you cook ethnic foods with your children you can also teach them about the meaning of food in different cultures.
If cooking is a new activity for your child, it’s likely they will be using new vocabulary they have not used before. Practice words like whisk, drizzle, knead, grate, amongst others. Have your child read the ingredients on the recipe and prepare them. You can also have them practice following written direction by asking them to complete step 2 on the recipe. Encourage them to ask questions about any words or phrases that are new to them.
When children stir, mix, or knead ingredients, they are developing their sensory-motor skills, both with co-ordinating their small muscles and their large ones. They become familiar with the appearance and texture of certain ingredients or how they look and feel when combined. They also experience taste and food differentiation when they smell something and then try eating it.
When children measure ingredients they are using their math skills. They are becoming familiar with fractions, numbers, and developing spatial concepts.
When children are exposed to new foods, they are more likely to try them if they helped make them. Cooking together can also be a good opportunity to learn about Canada’s Food Guide, as you can ask them to make sure the meal is a balanced one. This can help them develop a positive attitude toward nutrition and can lead to them being able to choose their own healthy snacks or meals moving forward.
There are plenty of great reasons to start cooking with your children! Have fun!