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Kids learn fast, and the life skills they gain in their formative years can greatly improve the quality and richness of their adult lives. The key is to focus their attention and get them interested in real life, day to day activities; and cooking is one of the best.

Granted, kids don’t have a great attention span, but with a little perseverance and attention to detail, your children will be top chefs before you know it. I have been teaching my eight year old how to cook for a little over three years, and the benefits have been amazing.

Science

Cooking fundamentally boils down to physical and chemical processes and transformations, so it can be a rewarding hands on learning experience. The cooking is in itself a lesson, and my son’s natural inquisitiveness often takes care of the curriculum. “Why does water boil, why does pasta go from hard to soft, why does dough rise, what happens when you whisk eggs – how do they get so fluffy?” Apart from giving my son a greater understanding of the world, this knowledge also helps him when it comes to schoolwork. In the teaching process, I myself have become a better cook, striving to provide the most exciting recipes for our cooking adventures, as well as the most interesting cooking facts.

A sense of responsibility

There is nothing a kid loves more than a chance to be “all grown up,” and involving your kids in cooking will make them feel super special. My son relishes his important role as sous chef, and really feels that he is contributing in a real way to the family. I try to give him as many opportunities to do things by himself, and am frequently surprised at how much he can do under the lightest of supervision. It’s amazing how responsible kids can be when they have a task that they can perform confidently and be proud of.

Metrics

Understanding volume and measurement is a key day-to-day skill, and cooking is an ideal way to get your kids acquainted with the basics. The humble measuring jug is in fact a valuable teaching resource. By using various measuring utensils such as spoons, jugs, scales and cups you can show your child how two substances of the same volume do not weigh the same. For example sugar and water. Mix them together, weigh them, and you end up with a real life maths lesson. Following recipes with your kids also introduces them to fractions and proportions, as well as their real world application.

Reading

Something interesting happened when I started cooking with my son; he got really into reading! I use my tablet to read recipes, and my kid was fascinated with both the device and pretty pictures in the recipes, and he wanted to know what they had to say. We started cooking together just after he learned to read, so the recipes were a great resource for furthering his reading level. I also found that much of the abstraction was removed from reading; it says black pepper in the recipe, and the same thing on my pepper grinder. Simple, straightforward and effective.

Nutrition

My son has always been a fussy eater, downright refusing certain foods at the mere sight of them. However, when it is a dish we have prepared together all of the fussiness disappears: even when it is a salad! A dish is only as good as its ingredients, and knowing how to choose the best produce is a skill you can pass onto your kids. If you are already taking your kids with you on your weekly shop, use this opportunity to teach them how to select ripe produce, and what to have in mind when buying certain foodstuff. I often give my son his own shopping list with items that he can reach and recognise easily, and love to watch him meticulously surveying and picking out fruit and veg.

Through cooking and learning about food, my son has gained confidence, dexterity, and self-reliance. In addition, the knowledge and insight imparted through selecting and cooking food can be applied to a variety of fields, both in and out of the classroom. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, cooking with my child has given us both hours of quality family time and unique moments that we will cherish forever.

Do you cook with your children? What are the things you love to cook? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • plus kids have so much fun and you get to spend quality time with them….oh and then get a nice meal/treat to eat :)

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  • My little one likes getting a wooden spoon and mixing in the bowl.

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  • A suggestion – especially if the children are helping. My Mother used to put newspaper on the bench. It was so much easier to clean the mess up. Just roll the paper up – bullk of or all the mess gone. Alternatively you could probably use paper towel especially where liquid is being used.


    • I like the newspaper idea: it’s killing two birds with one stone. The mess is gone within seconds and old newspaper too. Pretty cool!

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  • the most important reason for teaching your kids to cook is that you may not always be there to cook for them. If they learn to cook at an early age they have no fear of cooking or recipes and can manage well when mum isn’t around

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  • My kids loving helping me cook & it’s a great way to boost their confidence as they learn to measure & follow instruction.

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  • I love baking and my daughter enjoys helping me (ie. licking out the bowl). She has also learnt the importance of clean hands and exact measurements. She takes pride in telling people of her involvement.

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  • Absolutely agree. Teach your kids to have an interest in whole foods, make it fun for them. They’ll carry that knowledge with them their whole life and be able to feed themselves and their family down the track.

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  • All children should have a basic knowledge in food preparation and cooking … how many times do we see young adults (that have never cooked before) move out of home and live on takeaway or restaurant food?
    Thank you for your wonderful article and all the very best to your budding chefs.

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  • We’ve struggled to interest my son in preparing and cooking food. A semester of Food Tech sparked an initial interest to then practice cooking at home, but it was short lived. My son is now 15 and we’re working on it, but I agree for all of the reasons above – nutrition, health, understanding what goes in your body, proteins vs carbs etc., independence, measuring, etc.

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  • We keep one afternoon per week apart for cooking and baking together as my kids wanted to know and learn how I make things. They LOVE it !

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  • I did this with all of my children – they loved to cook as little ones and still enjoy it today. Nothing nicer than sharing a recipe or two with them.

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  • Something i can’t wait to do when my son’s older, although he helps now by putting things in the pot or saucepan at dinnertime :)

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  • I taught my children how to cook and got them involved at a very early age. It pays off, especially as my eldest son is a top cook today. I love what he makes he uses his mind in very creative ways to present original and scrumptious meals.
    I will never have to be concerned about him looking after himself. My daughter can cook as well although I haven’t been a partaker to any of her meals, but she must be doing something right. My youngest, I’m not so sure how he fairs, but he was encouraged as much as all of them.
    I can be confident they will never starve. They have the skills to carry them through life. Cooking is a necessary skill whether you marry or not, because you are always going to need to eat and take away is not a good option all the time.

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  • The greatest challenge into today’s lifestyle is survival. If everybody has the knowledge of fairly basic cooking, it will reduce their challenge and their survival rate will soar above their expectations.
    Learning too cook within the household or outdoors, the challenge becomes a lot easier too survive.


    • It’s an interesting way of looking at this. I agree, by the way.

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  • Our DD1 is 7 and really interesting in cooking now thanks to junior shows on the food network. We are teaching her slowly and it is working really well!

    Reply

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