Should we be teaching out children to cook? In our household cooking – whether real or imaginary – is a big thing. It always has been. My girls love making new creations, and they love to bake cookies, cakes and muffins (but not eat them). They even created their own recipe book for a homeschool co-op Makers Market full of their favorites.
It was something I introduced early. They would stand on their stools and assist. It then moved into meal planning and shopping, and now they are making their own breakfasts and sometimes even dinner! There is often a mess….but what they are learning far outweighs the clean up time. I will be honest – it is not easy to teach a child to learn to cook. Even in the youngest days they get in way and you start thinking “It is much easier to just do this myself!” But don’t stop. Have patience. It will be worth it before you know it.
So, should we be teaching our children to cook? Yes! Oh, yes! And why? Because it is an invaluable life skill.
Cooking has always been an activity I promote to families for the educational value. In cooking you are covering reading, math and science. If at all possible, when I am writing a unit study, I make sure to include some cooking or baking. Learning about new cultures? Learn how they cook! Want to know what happens if you don’t follow instructions? Do some cooking!
REASONS FOR TEACHING YOUR CHILD TO COOK
Let’s look at some amazing benefits of teaching your children to cook:
- Family time – cooking together is a bonding time. You get to be together working on a common goal. It can be a time to laugh together, to talk about the day, and to connect on a deeper level.
- It is an important life skill – If we want to eat we have a few options, one being to eat out all the time, but that gets old quickly, not to mention expensive. Being able to cook means self-sufficiency and independence.
- Boosts confidence – a child who has made or baked something will proudly say “I made this myself!” With that confidence they will try new recipes, and then it will start entering other areas of their life. Self-confidence is a good thing.
- It develops fine motor skills – with cooking you are measuring, cutting, rolling, sprinkling, kneading, stirring, etc. These are great ways to develop fine motor skills in young children.
- It’s a way to teach 21st century skills, especially critical thinking, creativity and collaboration – I love the 21st century skills, and for me cooking is a wonderful way to problem solve, make connections with real world applications and work together.
- Reading is practiced – reading a recipe is important to make sure you don’t skip a step. And it is not just reading of the words but actually comprehending.
- Math becomes practical – it is always great when you can see practical applications of a subject. In cooking you are using fractions, temperature, geometry, along with multiplication and division if you are making more or less than the recipe states.
- It can be a creative outlet – my girls love to watch baking shows and see what marvelous creations can be produced from simple ingredients. It then sparks their creativity in presentation on the plate, ingredients used, decoration.
- Learn about failure – sometimes cooking flops. Why? Let’s explore why. And finding those answers can help with the next time you try that recipe. Failing is ok. It is a part of life. This is just some bad tasting food or a flopped cake. It will be better next time.
Other benefits are:
- Learning about new cultures
- Are more likely to eat healthy
- Learn where food comes from
- Can provide opportunities to serve
- Contributing to the family
- Can cut down on picky eating
HOW CAN I TEACH MY CHILD?
Start young and encourage their interest when they show it. Most children want to know what you are doing and why. Talk with them about it.
Watching baking and cooking shows together is fun. My girls’ favorites are The Great British Baking Show, Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimate Home Cooking, Jamie Oliver, and quite a few more.
Get child friendly knives. They can learn to cut even as a toddler.
Find some fun, child recipe books to spark their interest. Many of these have pictures they can follow and will be recipes they can make without adult assistance.
Start small. Start with easy recipes like cookies. Once you are mastering a certain skill you can get more difficult in the recipes you are using. Move onto cakes, easy dinners that involve a few processes and then get more complex. Not even Julia Child jumped in to debone a duck!
Make it a regular thing. Just cooking together once in a while is not going to teach your child to cook. It needs to be regular. Why not pick once a week to start, and as confidence grows, increase the number of times you cook together.
COOKING IS FUN
Let’s make it fun and get together and cook! Set your children up for a life of excellent meals and delicious baked treats (all healthy, of course). The mess can be cleaned up. The little frustrations can be eased. Accidents might happen, but none of these are a reason to not be teaching your child to cook. And don’t forget there are the memories of time spent together.