As parents, we’re all part of the never-ending story that is trying to find things for our kids to do. Ideally those activities won’t simply entertain—they’ll also teach our progeny something practical and helpful (dare we say, even important?) about themselves/the world/stuff other than an iPad.
Enter cooking: It’s educational, it’s confidence-building, it’s fun—and, if you’re lucky, it’s dinner. Here are three big wins your kid can get from time in the kitchen:
When you and your little human on a stepstool are standing side by side at the sink rinsing leafy greens, you’re not just making salad—you’re also chatting about the nutritional advantages of darker greens, comparison-tasting earthy kale and peppery arugula, or deciding what other fresh veggies (or fruits or cheese or beans or meat) would complement your salad best. If you grew those greens in your garden, so much the better: Junior has learned that food doesn’t start out in a can, bag, or box.
Cooking or preparing it his “own self” will also make your child more willing to try different nutritious foods, like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, papaya, and fish. And he can learn how to give his food great flavor with spices and cooking techniques (roasting!), rather than just dumping in a lot of salt, sugar, and fat.
Math & Science Skills
The more relevant we can make math concepts, the easier they are for kids to grasp—and remember. For the littlest chefs, cooking provides opportunities to practice counting, identify shapes, and get a visual of abstractions like more and less. At the same time, Big Sis is learning how to measure, convert grams to ounces, and halve a recipe (hello, fraction practice!).
In the same vein, cooking is science in action. Kids learn how temperature and force affect matter (liquid pancake batter becomes solid cakes on the griddle, whipping cream makes it fluffy, etc.) and how chemical reactions can turn a few blah ingredients into something good to eat (just make anything with yeast). Next stop: molecular gastronomy’s flavored foams, gels, and vapors.
Creativity & Confidence
Cooking not only provides an arena for safe experimentation, it frequently rewards it. Exhibit A in my house? My daughter’s avocado-cocoa smoothies. Wacky idea; unbelievable flavor and creaminess.
But it’s not just about eating something tasty. Whether it’s a first-time triumph or a tried-and-tried-again success, cooking inspirations that work build your child’s self-esteem (and lead to increasingly savvy improvisations—look out, Top Chef Junior). Along the way, your kid will also get practice with reading comprehension, following directions, problem solving, and patience. And doesn’t everybody win with that?
Did you know? Little Sous offers a monthly themed kids cooking box that will help your family connect in the kitchen. Check out our subscription options!