The Lifelong Benefits of Cooking With Children
Although the kitchen may simply seem like an area to get various daily household tasks done, it can actually be a great learning place for kids. By including children in the kitchen, parents can help them to learn a number of important skills.
Some of these include how to cook, good hygiene habits, and shopping. The best way to involve kids is to let them get hands-on. Most children learn quickly by doing tasks themselves. Allow them to take on simple jobs like mixing, pouring and arranging items.
Advantage of Involving Kids in the Kitchen
One of the greatest benefits of letting kids cook is the sense of achievement and self-sufficiency that they experience. More importantly, they are likely to be less picky about eating food if they have helped to prepare it. Take them through the entire process of preparing a meal, from obtaining ingredients to cooking and presenting it on the table.
By making it fun, kids also learn to participate in household chores without perceiving it as something they are forced to do. It is a great way to reduce time spent on sedentary activities, such as playing videogames. Beyond this, children will also gain a better appreciation for the amount of work and thought that really goes into preparing meals.
Cooking with kids is a great opportunity for parents to teach them about healthy and unhealthy foods. Going one step further, it is best to make them understand about how to cook in a healthy manner (for example, limiting the use of oil), so that they grow up with smart standards.
Very often, when people learn good habits such as these at a young age, they tend to carry these values with them well into adulthood. When parents allow their children to make food choices in the kitchen, it fosters their creativity and decision-making skills. It breaks down barriers and provides the groundwork for self-sufficient adults.
Cooking Involves Practical Skills
Apart from simply learning about food and how to cook, it is quite amazing to note all the different skills that kids can pick up in the kitchen. Encourage them to recite recipes and labels out loud to help them practice reading and learn new words. Parents can then test their understanding by asking them to explain what needs to be done at each step in the recipe. Math skills come into play too and baking can be a great source of practical exercise for children to learn about arithmetic, fractions, decimals, geometry and time management. The kitchen is a great place to get kids interested in science too. Ask them to guess what might happen during the cooking process and demonstrate simple chemical reactions such as changes between solids, liquids and gases, dissolving, emulsions, crystallization and more.
Introduce foods from other cuisines too, to teach kids about foreign cultures. This is a great time to start a discussion about why those cultures might eat certain foods, which ingredients they use and how they cook. Involving kids in the kitchen can get a little hectic sometimes. Assign each of them certain tasks to teach them about responsibility. Alternatively, allow them to complete a task together, to help them learn about group work and sharing duties. If they have questions about what to do, prompt them to come to a decision on their own instead of always relying on another person to do so.
Kitchen Tasks for Each Age Group
Kitchen tasks can be broken down and assigned to children according to their ages. Before assigning them a job, make sure that they understand what to do and how to complete it safely. For example, a good idea is to purchase a cookbook for children or find recipes geared towards kids. Often, these types of cookbooks rate their recipes according to age groups or difficulty level.
When starting out, don’t be afraid to bring babies into the kitchen to help them get used to those surroundings. However, keep them safe in a high chair, away from any potentially dangerous tools and devices. Toddlers, around two or three years old can make their first forays into the kitchen with easy but helpful jobs, such as rinsing vegetables, transferring pre-measured items into containers, throwing out trash, mixing with a spoon, or pouring.
By four and five years of age, children gradually begin to develop more motor control. At this age they can usually handle tasks like measuring ingredients, whisking (with a hand-held whisk), arranging items on the table, mashing soft foods with a fork, and cutting foods with an unsharpened knife. Even if they do make a mess or mistakes, show them how to do it correctly in a positive way instead of scolding them.
Kids between six to eight can get started with new tasks that include gathering or clearing away cooking utensils, washing produce, cracking eggs into a bowl, shredding cheese and washing dishes with supervision. As they advance between ages nine to twelve, children should still have an adult to oversee their kitchen activities, but by this point, they can manage most of the work themselves. They can plan out a basic meal, follow directions in a recipe, operate basic kitchen appliances, bake and clean up.
Finally, when they reach their teens, kids should be able to manage themselves in the kitchen without supervision. Apart from creating more advanced meals, they should also be able to perform tasks such as food decoration, become more creative in their cooking, plan out a menu and supervise young children in the kitchen.
Safety Guidelines for the Kitchen
Safety is the most important thing to keep in mind when allowing kids of any age into the kitchen. Ensure that they fully understand food safety guidelines and practice them diligently. Posting a checklist or chart of kitchen safety tips in the kitchen is one good way to help younger kids remember them. For example, they should know to wash their hands thoroughly before cooking. Keep long hair pinned back and try to avoid loose clothing.
Countertops, tools and utensils should all be cleaned properly before use. It is especially important to make children understand the implications of consuming food that has gone bad or cooking with unclean utensils. Show them how to use oven mitts, potholders and cooling racks for hot items. To avoid accidents, all items should be well away from the edges of the tables and countertops. To prepare for any emergency situations, post a sheet of emergency and first responder contacts in an easily accessible spot. The children should know how to operate the fire extinguisher and how to escape if there is a fire.
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