When my children were younger, I would often hesitate when they asked me to help cook because of the extra mess and extra time it took. However, teaching children to cook and getting them involved in the kitchen teaches them SO much more than merely how to make a meal together.
photo courtesy of laterjay on PixaBay
Here are a few things your children can learn just by helping you cook. It is worth the mess and extra time!
Learning How To Follow Instructions
There's an old saying which goes like this: 'Anyone who can read can cook.' Like many old sayings, there's a lot of truth in it. A recipe is a set of instructions, and if the recipe is going to succeed, those instructions need to be followed in the correct sequence. Children learning to cook will learn to follow a set of instructions, and that skill will prove useful in many other learning environments.
Learning Weights, Measures And Counting
As children weigh out ingredients, they learn how to measure things and also get a rough idea of what a pound of flour or a pint of water looks like. They also learn the difference between a teaspoon and a Tablespoon. There's a lot of mathematical thinking while cooking. For older children, if a dough mixture will make 20 cookies, how many quantities of each ingredient will be needed to make 10 or 40 cookies? .
photo courtesy of Skitterphoto on Pixabay
Fine Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination
Cooking requires skills such as chopping and cutting, which help with hand-eye coordination and motor skills. If the recipe requires that chunks of chicken need to be 1" square, the child needs to recognize what 1" square looks like and how to produce the required size. If something needs to be finely or coarsely chopped, again, the child will need to learn how to achieve the desired result.
Where Does It Come From?
Working with natural foods helps children to recognize the original sources of the foods they eat. Potatoes are often covered with a film of earth, so the child learns that this food comes from the ground.
In the Summer, parents may pick strawberries with their children, then make strawberry jam or strawberry cheesecake, so again, the child develops an awareness of the origins of the foods they eat.
Learning To Cook From Scratch
These days, so much food is processed and packaged, ready to heat and eat. If a child is involved in producing a dish from natural ingredients, they will learn that food does not just come in packages from the supermarket. Children who are involved in cooking from an early age are less likely to rely on convenience food as adults.
photo courtesy of Katja_Kolumna on PixaBay
Healthy Eating Guidelines
As children learn to cook, they can also be taught the rudiments of healthy eating. It can be demonstrated that too much fat can make a food unappetizing, for example. In addition, children can learn the composition of a healthy dinner plate. Too much of any single food group is neither healthy to eat nor attractive to look at.
Learning to cook is not just a skill that will equip your child for an independent future, but it is a great learning opportunity too. Embrace the mess and their willingness to help in the kitchen!