There are many important reasons for kids to develop cooking skills: When children are welcomed into the kitchen, they are more likely to try new foods, eat better and have more confidence to prepare meals and snacks for themselves at home both now and when they get older.
Most importantly, when children participate in cooking at a young age, they are able to build their sense of independence in the kitchen, which will help ensure that they continue to use their cooking skills into adulthood.
The earlier children start cooking, the more likely it is that they will use these skills in their future. Kids can start doing simple tasks such as pouring ingredients into a bowl and mixing at a very young age. By the time children are pre-adolescents (10–12 years old), they are interested in food and cooking and have all the motor skills they need to jump right in, so start now if you haven’t already.
Waiting until your child asks to be taught may be too late! When kids reach adolescence, their interests are occupied by other pressing issues so taking the important step of creating a family-friendly kitchen early on is the key.
Although it may seem time-consuming, involving your kids in cooking doesn’t have to take any more time than cooking alone and can actually save time. Start by having them just observe your routine and the goings on in your kitchen. Before you know it, they’ll have confidence to try some easy cooking tasks (whipping cream, crushing garlic, stirring a yummy soup).
As their skills grow and they learn, you can let your children make a portion of the meal, reducing the time it would take to make the whole meal by yourself. Over time, you will feel comfortable just assigning meal preparation tasks to your children while you supervise.
The best way to get the ball rolling is to create a welcome environment where all family members can feel comfortable being involved or just observing meal preparation. Allowing kids to casually observe and get involved when they want to will make it a family activity rather than a cooking lesson. To get an idea of how they could help you prepare the meal, ask your children what kind of cooking activities they’d like to try.
For ideas on how to involve your kids in the kitchen, check out these tips and tools.
Cooking does not have to be risky for your children. You can reduce the risk of cooking with your kids by giving them smaller or easy-to-handle tools. For example, if you are not comfortable with your child handling a big knife, give them cutting jobs they can do with a smaller knife or assign them tasks that don’t involve knives. A hot plate can help you get around using a stove to cook meals if you are concerned that your child will burn him- or herself.
Don’t go overboard with safety measures. Your children want to feel like you trust them to complete tasks appropriate for their age. Don’t be afraid to let your kids try new things and expand their horizons—you will probably find that they are a lot more capable than you think.