A child’s strongest need, even more than food or affection, is to imitate adults. That is how the ygrow up and become independent. But all too often, we relegate children off to the playroom while we do the “important” things. I know we are all short on time and it’s often easier to do things on our own, but getting your kids into the kitchen at a very young age pays off in the long run.
This post was inspired by a mom who complained on Twitter that her daughter was not in preschool long enough for her to finish cooking. Children are a part of our lives, and for most of us that involves cooking.
Kids want to do what they see you doing. Take advantage of this at every opportunity, and make sure they are imitating the right things!
- Cooking with kids provides endless opportunities to talk about health and food choices. You can pass on your religious and ethnic traditions too.
- There is no better way to learn than by observing. Kids can see how you hold a can opener, rinse off a glass, empty a pot, or flip over a pancake.
- Practice language skills, by describing what you are doing and asking and answering questions.
- Kids learn math concepts like counting, comparing, timing, measuring, weighing, logistics and more.
- Kids experience different colors, tastes, textures sounds and smells in the kitchen. Point out the smell of finished bread and burnt onions, or the thickness of the cake batter. One of my kids could identify a dozen different spices by smell.
- Kids learn safety skills like using potholders, holding knives correctly, and cleaning up spills.
- You become more organized. You’ll need to plan which tasks are suitable for kids, and which to do alone. You’re more likely to keep cooking spaces clear and put things away promptly when kids are around.
- You’re teaching kids a process. Some kids grow up thinking that meals magically appear on the table.
- The sooner you start involving your kids in cooking, the faster they will be capable of really helping.
Most kitchen skills can be taught to preschoolers. Sure you want to play it safe, but being overly cautious isn’t good either. I’ll give ideas for kids of different ages, in a separate post.