Eating is a natural part of life.
We all must eat to survive, but we also want to enjoy the experience. Children are the same way. Not only do they feel hungry, but they want to eat the stuff that tastes good. But, often the food they want to eat is not the healthiest thing on the market. The healthy food is often the food they reject because they don’t like the taste of it.
As parents, it is your duty to teach them what the healthy choices are and try to make them eat it. One way to teach children about food is to have your children cook with you. Not only do children learn about the foods that they are eating, but they are taught valuable lessons that will enable them to take care of themselves later in life.
Cooking with your children can be a good experience for you both. It should be a fun time that incorporates the teaching aspect without children being aware that they are also learning something at the same time. Start children making the yummy things that they love to eat – like cakes and cookies. Buy a snow cone maker - that's a real easy first step!
Even when children are very young and before they can read a recipe, they can still ‘help’ by adding ingredients into the bowl. Show them how to crack an egg. Help them measure the flour into a measuring cup and level it off with their little fingers. Let them stir the mixture with a big wooden spoon. Of course, decorating cookies or cakes with chocolate morsels or candy bits are classic in providing smiles on children’s faces. But, how about letting them add the pepperoni or other toppings to a homemade pizza? Or, they can sprinkle the cheese on a mac ‘n cheese casserole. All of this adds to their cooking skills and helps them learn what goes into the foods that they love to eat.
Cooking with children is not a time when making a mess matters. They are going to make a mess. Things will get spilled or dropped. The cake batter is sure to ooze out of the bowl onto the counter. More chocolate frosting is sure to end up on your child’s face and shirt than on the brownies. Control yourself and do not make a fuss – just deal with it, be ready for it, and clean it up as the situation occurs. Don’t forget that children often learn by watching what you do. As your children advance, they will develop more co-ordination and will be able to master the cooking techniques you are showing them. And, eventually they will also imitate your clean-up attempts.
Let your children experiment with food. Just because you don’t think a peanut butter and tuna sandwich would taste very good, doesn’t mean that your children may not like it. If they make it themselves, chances are they will eat it. They will be proud to have invented a new concoction. And if it contains the healthy foods that you are trying to get them to eat, what is wrong with that? Perhaps they will really come up with something good that no-one has thought of before. Maybe they are the next great chef in the making.
Teaching your children to cook can also teach them other skills you may not be aware of. They will be practicing their reading skills by reading the directions in a recipe. Without being aware of it, math also comes into play – how many ounces are in a cup? Science is also a part of cooking. What does adding baking soda to the pancake batter cause to happen? What happens when yeast, sugar and warm water come together – isn’t that a science experiment? Children are also learning to follow directions. They learn that not everything is done in a free-spirit manner and sometimes you just have to follow the rules in order for things to turn out right.
Helping you to prepare a dish and being able to eat it will give your children something to be proud of. Imagine their faces when they present that delicious supper dish to the rest of the family. This will instill a great deal of pride in their accomplishment. They will have something to help make them feel good about themselves, which will also increase their self-esteem.
Another aspect in having your children cook with you is that they are more apt to eat what they have helped prepare. If they are involved in cooking those carrots chances are that they will at least try to eat them. You can also show them that including those same vegetables that they do not like in a cake can be very tasty – that they can get the goodness of carrots in carrot cake and have a delicious treat at the same time. In this way you can encourage your kids to include healthier ingredients into their meals and realize that it can still taste good.
One of the most important things about cooking with your children is the special time you spend together. Children may be playing and making a mess, but you are both also spending that time bonding with each other. And, you will find that kids are cute when trying to cook. Who wouldn’t want to kiss a cuddly, chocolate-covered face that shows how serious it is to stir that brownie batter just so? Sharing your children’s laughter and smiles while they learn to cook is an invaluable time that can be a great experience for everyone involved.