When it comes to raising children to be enthused and adventurous eaters, it takes a little more than pleading with kids to eat their veggies. Creating a healthy eating environment where a child can enjoy eating fruit just as much as french fries can take a lot of patience and education, but it doesn’t need to be as taxing as it sounds.
Kids turn toward food during times of anxiety or discomfort, and it may take a joyful relationship with food to get them familiar with tasting ingredients that are unknown to them. Over time, cooking with your kids will provide them with the foundation to make decisions and be confident based on the impactful sensory experiences they will pick up on in the kitchen.
If you aren’t already, here are 7 reasons why you should cook with your children and the benefits of it.
1. Engage Their Senses
For all the picky eaters out there, the initial taste of unfamiliar food can be daunting. Instead of leaving your child paralyzed in fear while staring blankly at a plate of carrots, you can help explore and introduce new foods to your child by using senses other than taste. This practice helps create recognizable associations with food that they can enjoy. Start by allowing them to get their hands dirty—kneading dough, rinsing veggies, grating cheese all begin with the touch and feel of the food so your kids can become comfortable with different textures.
The many complex flavors we enjoy while eating come in equal parts from the taste buds on our tongues and the smells we detect through our nostrils. When teaching kids to cook a new dish they haven’t seen before, they might become too overwhelmed to give it a taste. If this happens at mealtime, suggest they smell the food first to ease their worry and build a bridge to tasting the food later on.
2. Cooking is Educational
Cooking can be just as educational as going to school—why do you think there are so many cookbooks to choose from? The benefits from cooking with your kids and the lessons to be taught in the kitchen are endless—mathematic concepts such as counting, measuring, dividing, and fractions naturally make their way into the lesson plan when introducing a new recipe. Communicating how food is altered with heat or how our bodies need certain healthy foods to properly function provides a great introductory science lesson.
Learning about different foods, cultures, and geographies while cooking with your children can help them pick up on new vocabulary skills from their own country and countries all around the world. When you describe what the food is and how it looks, feels, and tastes, kids can discover there is much more to food beyond the way we eat it. Follow a new recipe from scratch and help your children navigate the skills needed to plan, organize, and complete tasks or projects.
3. Create Family Traditions
Nothing brings people closer together than the bond shared over a tasty plate of food. The best family meals aren’t the ones that you rush to scarf down, but the ones that start in the kitchen with the entire family getting involved. Family time is the easiest way to get kids cooking, and the meal prep involved is a great chance to celebrate life-long recipes and your own family heritage.
When you let the kids get involved in the kitchen, it gives them the chance to find their favorite recipe to add to the family cookbook. Whether you’re preparing for the Thanksgiving feast or a common Sunday night dinner, creating nightly and seasonal traditions around the kitchen and the food you make will help strengthen your family ties and the commitment you have toward each other and building a healthy lifestyle.
4. Practice Safe Kitchen Habits
When it comes to children, kitchen safety is the number one priority. Teach your kids how important it is to practice safe habits in the kitchen by showing them the proper way to hold kitchen utensils, how to use oven mitts correctly, and how to safely turn appliances off and on. The best way to ensure a safe kitchen space is to know your child’s abilities and give them tasks appropriate for their age.
You can ask your 6-year-old to stir the pot of sauce, but you don’t want them dicing up veggies or filleting a salmon. If you’re dealing with even younger children, sautéing the vegetables over a hot pan may be a tall order, so start small and let them rinse the fruits or lettuce heads. Keeping motor skills and safety in mind, it can be an effortless task to get kids cooking and younger children involved in the kitchen.
5. They’ll Feel Included
Kids love to be included and feel like they’re helping. Even if they’re just helping mom tie her apron, it can produce pure joy and excitement. Children feel even more included when they are asked to participate in any sort of meal preparation. Talk with your kids and collaborate on recipes for side dishes and the main course. Let them look at the shopping list and help pick out groceries at the store or farmers market. It’s never too early to teach them how to spot a ripe melon.
There’s no one on Earth more honest than children—so let them critique the meal you’re preparing. Kids love to taste test or lick the spoon while you’re cooking, and if they don’t like it, you can count on them to be painfully honest. A simple lack of seasoning could turn into a full-fledged “yuck,” or they may really enjoy the dish. After that, you can decide together what ingredients you need to enhance or ease the flavor of your meal. Let your children talk about what flavors they like and the different tastes they enjoy—kids love to be in charge in any way they can. And if their critiques are just plain harsh, you can always send them to set the table.
6. Cooking is An Adventure
It’s not a science-fiction novel with robots and explosions, but cooking can offer just as much adventure for your kids to get excited about. Whether it’s books, art, sports, music, and even food, kids give off a natural curiosity and creative itch that perfectly lends itself to the kitchen. Experimenting with different recipes can be a fun way to introduce cooking to your kids; especially if you let them make a mess. Plan ahead, be prepared with all necessary ingredients, and let their imaginations run wild.
If you treat your kitchen like an artist’s studio, they will unleash their creativity and start to learn while they’re having fun. Think of it as their culinary jungle gym—even though there are no monkey bars or sand boxes, the kitchen can be just as fun. They will look forward to mealtimes and begin to hone in on important developmental skills that they can take to other interests and areas of life.
7. The Start of a Healthy Future
Preparing and eating fresh, wholesome meals at home will teach your kids to do the same. They all go through a picky phase, but when healthy ingredients are in the house, they’ll learn to come around. It’s all about establishing a healthier future and giving them the tools needed to eat healthy on their own.
Kids pick up on habits good and bad, so it’s vital to show them good and healthy eating habits. Cooking together as a family and prioritizing good health over the convenience of fast food is the best way to take charge when leading your children down the path of culinary wellness.
There’s nothing more accomplishing than placing a meal on the table that looks, smells, and tastes like it’s straight out of the Food Network. This will encourage your kids to get in the kitchen and help with the cooking more often. As their curiosity and self-esteem grow, you’ll notice much more adventurous eaters and enjoy countless happy memories spent together at the family table. And who knows, maybe one day your kids will even cook dinner for mom and dad.
Now it’s time to grab your chef’s hats (big and small) and start cooking with your kiddos. And if you need any maintenance on your kitchen appliances or new equipment altogether, give us a call or stop by Albert Lee to shop our entire collection of kitchen appliances. We’ve got everything you need to prepare the perfect family dinner. Visit us today.