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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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