March is Nutrition Month, which means it’s time to unlock the potential of food discovery with kids in the kitchen! We often focus on the healthy eating benefits of kids’ cooking, such as improved food skills and eating more fruit and vegetables. But what other lessons and skills do kids learn by cooking?
It’s never too early or late to get kids in the kitchen
Kids as young as two may be ready to be in the kitchen, even if it’s just to watch you cook as they play with a spoon and pot. From washing veggies to making their own school lunches, kids can do these age-appropriate cooking tasks. Kids are more likely to eat and try new food that they helped prepare and this can make all the difference for kids that are hesitant to try new foods.
Lessons and skills kids learn in the kitchen
Family and cultural traditions
The kitchen is a space to bring years of traditions into our everyday lives and pass them down to future generations. Trying and learning about new foods is also a great way for kids to learn about diverse cultures.
Kids take pride in their work especially when you acknowledge what they’re really good at (listening/washing/mixing/measuring/cutting, etc.)
Kids will learn how to interact and work together with others (parents, siblings, classmates or friends) to make a recipe. They will practice sharing utensils, communicating, and listening to instructions, which all help build their teamwork skills.
Cooking is a great way to learn from your mistakes. If something goes wrong, you can encourage your kids to try to figure out how to solve the problem. It’s important to stay positive. Laugh it off if the recipe doesn’t turn out great and try to problem-solve on how to make it better for the next time.
It takes effort and time to cook. Though they may watch the oven to check the progress of their hard work (as some of us adults also do), they will build patience as they wait!
Learning the names of food and kitchen utensils, describing the taste and look of food, reading recipes, writing and reading grocery lists, and chatting while cooking are all activities that build language skills.
Measuring and counting ingredients, switching millilitres to cups and doubling a recipe all require math work. If we’re being honest, cooking even helps us adults brush up on our fractions!
The kitchen is an everyday science laboratory—think about boiling an egg, baking bread and muffins, browning meat and melting butter. If you’re looking for an interesting science activity, try this red cabbage juice experiment from Foodland Ontario.
Fine Motor Skills
Younger children can practise their fine motor skills through pouring, mixing and adding ingredients. Cooking can help enhance hand-eye coordination.
A local mom shares her experience of cooking with her kids
Lottie is a mom and author of a children’s cookbook (and recent newcomer to Guelph!). Putting her kids on a path to appreciate food and cooking was important to her from the start.
“When they’re two, they’re ready to join and it’s important to seize that opportunity. They have this admiration for you as a parent and they’re trying to copy you so it’s important to make most of that time.” Lottie shared.
Little hands helping in the kitchen – photo supplied by Lottie Aldarwish
She loves making memories with her kids in the kitchen and letting them “enjoy their time and independence and it doesn’t matter what the final product looks like.” This is the reason she didn’t include photos of the final products in her cookbook—to try and reduce some of the pressure there may be to create a dish that looks and tastes perfect.
Lottie shared a recent memory with her sons to describe how cooking has helped them build teamwork and leadership skills. Her eldest son is 7 and has been cooking with her for 5 years. She wanted to give him more responsibility so she designated him as the chef, while the younger was the assistant chef.
“I was amazed at how they rose to the occasion. The little one was saying “chef what’s next?” and the oldest was praising his younger brother and saying “good job on that.”
Kids cooking in the kitchen. Photo supplied by Lottie Aldarwish.
She is now able to involve them in evening meals and they’re actually helpful. “Eventually you start to get an extra pair of hands in the kitchen”.
What’s your favourite recipe to cook with your kids?
Or try our two-ingredient breakfast cookies and let us know how they turn out.
Have fun cooking and exploring food with your kids in the kitchen!