The following is by contributor Jaimie of Two Chicks and a Hen.
When I talked about surviving the witching hour with small children last March, one of the suggestions I gave was including your children in the cooking. Next week I’ll have lots of tips for how you can accomplish this in a way that keeps everyone happy and sane, but first I’d like to talk about why you should consider making this a regular part of your routine.
Some of us cook with our kids all the time, and it’s no big deal, but some of us cringe at the thought of flour all over the floor, more clothes to clean, messy hands, ruined meals, etc. Although there is some validity to those fears, you can eliminate most of them and successfully cook with kids by being intentional about the way you do it. A little planning goes a long way in the kitchen.
Why You Should Consider Cooking With Your Kids
If you have yet to invite your kids to cook but would like to, consider the following:
Our time is limited. Most of us, even those who aim for simpler lives, find ourselves busier than we’d like, and this can sometimes mean that we wish we had more time to bond with our kids. When we think of cooking as something that needs to be done without the kids, we squander a perfect opportunity for bonding and togetherness. Cooking with our children gives us time together that we might not otherwise have.
Even if dinner means walking in the door, throwing together a salad, and putting a frozen pizza in the oven, doing these things together is a great way to be with our kids and reconnect, especially if we’ve been away from each other for the day.
Some of us prep all of our food on Sunday for the week because the evenings are too busy. Again—this is a great time to spend with our children instead of shuttling them off to the next room to watch a movie while we get “work” done.
Cooking it is great for children’s self-esteem. There are many cooking tasks that even toddlers can accomplish. When kids help prepare the family’s meal, they have a sense of worthiness and see themselves as a valuable contributors to the household.
Promotes Healthy Eating
Bringing kids into the kitchen helps create a culture of healthy eating. We can have much more of an impact on our children’s eating if we are buying, planning, and preparing the food together rather than simply serving them a plate of food after working mysteriously alone in the kitchen for an hour.
Also, picky eaters are sometimes more likely to eat or at least try something that they’ve had a hand in preparing. And we can even discover new things about our children’s food preferences through the act of cooking with them. My eldest will prepare things in a certain way (especially when making her own pizza) that gives me clues as to how she likes things.
Real-Life, Hands-On Learning
Cooking offers an amazing real-life, hands-on opportunity for all kinds of learning. Cooking is chemistry. Cooking is math (measurements, fractions, etc.) Cooking is botany, especially in the summer when we’re gardening and then eating things we’ve grown. Cooking is art. Cooking is culture, manners, and pretty much every other subject you can imagine.
The act of cooking, especially when certain components of it become more second nature, offers us a nice time to simply be together with our children or, if they feel like talking, to chat and find out a little more about what’s going on in their heads.
Remember that it’s not all-or-nothing. It likely won’t be convenient or desirable for your kids to cook every meal with you, but you can always start somewhere. And I know some stay at home parents who, after spending all day with their kids, like their quiet alone time when cooking. If you can’t or don’t want to cook with them often, a weekly group cooking session or even a couple of times a month will give your kids the opportunity to start getting comfortable in the kitchen.
Eventually, when they become more self-sufficient in their tasks, you can actually count on the kids to make the cooking preparation go faster. I know that an 18 month old’s “help” in the kitchen seems at times to be more trouble than it’s worth. I’ve been there. But I’m now seeing the fruits of my labor when my five and a half year old can measure out all the flour for the bread using the proper method of measuring dry ingredients (something I didn’t learn until I was in my thirties) while I’m scuttling about the kitchen getting other things done.
Be sure to come back next Monday for a list of concrete tips to make cooking with kids a smoother and, dare I say it, fun experience.
Do you cook with your kids? Has it been successful? What sorts of challenges have you encountered?