I think cooking is a fabulous activity to do together with the kids. It is a fantastic activity that combines so many things in one single activity. It is fun, it is useful, it is spending quality time, and not in the least, it is an opportunity to learn about numerous things: it allows you to talk about health, about maths, about sustainability, about economics,… and I can keep going.
Here is a little list to convince you to cook with the kids if you aren’t already and also to keep in the back of your mind when you are cooking together. Think of all the opportunities this activities opens up for your family.
1. Quality time
Cooking together is like building a house and sheltering in it for the rain. You work on it together, you achieve something and you can enjoy eating it together afterwards. Creating things you are proud of together always bonds people. As cooking dinner is something that needs to be done anyway, doing it together turns in what may be a chore into this lovely quality time with the family. There is usually room for general chatting and a good conversation as well, especially if you can convince them to stay in the kitchen to help with the washing up as well.
2. Learning about weighing and measuring, talking maths
When you are cooking, you always need to measure and weigh. You are using the scale, the measuring jug, measuring cups, spoons, which are all tools of measuring quantitates in the kitchen. It is very important the measurements are correct or you won’t end up with a great result. Because cooking is such a hands on and practical application of using their knowledge of measure and weights it helps them to picture the measurements better. When they read ‘2 liter’ they will automatically be able to estimate how much it is, they will be able to relate it with a big bottle of milk for example. They will learn that a teaspoon is about 5 ml. It simply helps to really understand what the numbers mean, what they are worth. Do you this opportunity to help them build that understanding.
3. Learning to cook, a skill for life
If kids learn to cook while they are young, they won’t forget. They will be able to use this skill for the rest of their life. They will have learned to appreciate the home made food and will be confident doing it for themselves and won’t need to resort to take away and processed food all the time. If you are enjoying cooking together, they will remember this and associate cooking as a happy activity and may want to do so with their kids as well.
4. Learning to eat
Helping to cook, helps kids to learn to eat. They are much more likely to eat or at least try what they have enjoyed making themselves. Cooking also gives them the opportunity to taste of the individual ingredients whilst cooking. They are very well aware of what has gone into a dish. They will be confident they know what they are eating when the dinner is ready. They wouldn’t need to worry there was something in there they didn’t like. Kids can be difficult eaters because they don’t trust the food. It is a natural thing, especially with 3 to 6 year olds. They don’t need to be suspicious if they helped preparing because they know what has gone in!
5. Learning about eating healthily
During cooking you can also talk about the nutritional value of the ingredients you are using. What do we need and what contains what? What is not so good for us and why? Why can we only have cake when there is a party? You can use these charts from the UK Food Standards Agency to help you, print them and give them a place in your kitchen to remind yourself and to teach the kids.
6. Learning about sustainability
During cooking you can talk about where all the ingredients come from. You can do the shopping together as well of course. But even then is good to know where everything came from. Did it come from overseas? Did it have to travel by plane, by boat? Or was it grown in the glass houses in the next village? What time of year are they usually available? Can you find these things on the farmers market as well? Why? Why is meat expensive? What is the thing about cows and the environment? What fish types are threatened and why?
My husband and I are hoping to rely on the kids to take the responsibility of one proper meal a week. I got this idea from Annabel Karmel who wrote it in one of her recipe books I used, her kids were responsible for the Friday night dinner every week. I absolutely love that idea! They will need to cook, share the jobs and take on the responsibility. I will do the shopping, give them lots of praise for the result and be ever so grateful! I might even get the chance to read the paper while they are cooking! I can’t wait!
Well, are you convinced? For some ideas for what to cook with the kids have a look at my Recipes for kids page.