Cooking is a vital skill that everyone should be able to do. But did you know that learning to cook has numerous benefits for children? From learning life skills to fostering responsibility and promoting healthy eating habits, cooking with your child has a positive impact on their development. There is no particular age when you should start cooking with your children because as long as they are doing age-appropriate tasks, like kneading, mixing, or measuring, they will benefit. It’s worth mustering all the patience you have because there are many great reasons to bring your little one’s into the fold!
Cooking skills are used throughout the entirety of a person’s life: from making a basic sandwich to crafting a three-course feast, we use them daily. Beginning to cook at a young age will allow your child to grow up with a wide repertoire of meal options and phenomenal kitchen skills that are sure to impress! They can develop valuable life skills simply by spending time in the kitchen with you, even if they are not given a large task to do.
Motor skills are important for all child developmental stages, helping children learn everything from handwriting and language skills to coordination and balance. Not everyone knows that sports and crafts are only some of the ways that your little learners can develop their motor skills. Rolling dough, stirring sauce, peeling fruit, and mixing batter are great cooking tasks that help young children to develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can alter the kinds of tasks your children help with depending on their age and capabilities to help improve these skills.
Reading and talking about recipes with your child can help them to enhance their comprehension skills, whilst showing them different applications of writing. Not all children love story books, and that’s okay! With recipes, you have the benefits of teaching them to read, but in a fun and hands-on way that offers a clear cause and effect. For younger children with limited language, start them on individual words they know, and as they grow they can read more and more of the method to you.
As anyone who has ever followed a recipe knows, there is a lot of maths involved in cooking! Whether measuring by weight with scales or using measuring cups and spoons, your little ones have a great opportunity to improve their maths and numeracy skills. Counting, addition, subtraction, ratios, fractions, and timing are all real-life applications of maths in your kitchen.
A toddler and small child’s life is all about experimenting and exploring, and this means at mealtimes too. Picky eating is one way that children can show their independence, which is a normal part of child development — however frustrating it can be! Helping to prepare their own meals can make a big difference to your children’s eating habits and help them become more adventurous eaters. They are more likely to eat food they have prepared themselves as this still feels as if they are in control. It is a great way to introduce new foods to their diets to support their childhood nutrition and can encourage life-long healthy eating habits.
We all know that children are masters at being distracted, but like arts and crafts, cooking is a process that can keep them engaged. The preparation time listed in the method is a great help in being able to assess the difficulty of a task for your child, as well as the number of steps. If there are five steps to a recipe, take them one step at a time and let your child’s interest guide you into how many steps they complete with you. If they love a recipe but only complete one step, make it again at a later date and watch as they complete and learn more steps as their attention span and confidence grow. Besides, along the way, they will discover how all steps must be completed for a delicious treat at the end — what a motivator!
Who doesn’t love creating a nice meal or treat that everyone enjoys? This is true too for children who can use cooking to help develop positive self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of self-worth. It is a great and safe space to encourage and celebrate their work and achievements, as they are able to see the result of their effort and benefit from it in real time. It is also a great way for little ones to foster a sense of responsibility. A small task they might find easy and do well, like peeling carrots for example, might end up being something they always end up doing to help with dinnertime. They can consider this task their “job” and feel a sense of pride whenever it has to be done or for simply just helping their parents in the kitchen.
Cooking can function much like arts and crafts, as it lets children express their creativity and have fun through simple things like food or meal presentation and recipe development. This can be as simple as choosing the plates to serve the meal on, helping to pick the ingredients for a salad or dish, or decorating cookies and cupcakes with icing.
The kitchen is a great environment for siblings, cousins, and friends to cooperate, communicate, and build stronger relationships together. Shared activities are great at fostering stronger ties between children and can allow each of them to play to their own strengths while building up other skills. Children of different ages can assist with different steps and tasks from a recipe while reading it together and working towards the shared goal of enjoying a meal or snack afterwards. The kitchen is also a great place where you can spend quality time with your little ones. You can pass down family recipes and traditions to your children, or create new memories and moments that they will want to pass down to their own children.
At Little Zak’s, we have introduced weekly cooking and meal prep activities with your children, aiming to guide them towards good food habits and let them enjoy the benefits of cooking from a young age. To make it easier to mirror this at home, we will be sharing one recipe from our Little Zak’s Cookbook every month on our Instagram and Facebook! Share your cooking journey with us using #LittleZaksKitchenAdventures