Being able to prepare and cook food is an important life skill. When you cook with your children, you help them to develop the essential knowledge and skills needed for healthy nutrition. Cooking together can be fun, relaxing and brings families together.
Children love to help. It makes them feel useful and appreciated. Your children will not only appreciate the special time they are spending with you and feel valued for ‘helping’, they will also learn the skills and autonomy they will need for life. As for everything, children learn better when they do it themselves.
Ask your children to help in the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be a full cooking activity or an entire recipe. It can be as simple as washing a few vegetables, stirring the pot or tasting to make sure it’s not missing anything! They will learn something along the way and feel good about being helpful.
Sometimes when children want to help they’re not really helping. Their help often means a longer preparation time and more mess in the kitchen! To make cooking a fun learning experience for both you and your children, choose to share the cooking when you have enough time and feel relaxed and patient. Enlist your children’s help for a certain part of the cooking only, for example, to blend the ingredients, pick herbs from the garden, or plate up.
How can children cook or help in the kitchen?
Depending on their age and competencies, children can help with:
- Shopping (choosing items, placing them in the trolley, monitoring the shopping list)
- Unpacking groceries (learning what goes in the fridge and the pantry)
- Gathering the ingredients needed for the recipe
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Adding ingredients
- Mixing or stirring ingredients
- Weighing or measuring ingredients
- Taste testing (asking your child if they think it’s good or missing something)
- Cutting up (start with soft ingredients, using a children’s knife)
- Basting, brushing or pouring (butter, sauces, marinades, olive oil)
- Putting the timer on (children love buttons!)
- Operating electrical appliances (with direct supervision)
- Setting the table
- Plating up or serving (food and drinks)
- Taking the plates away
- Filling or emptying the dishwasher
- Putting things away and general clean-up.
Always supervise your children while cooking and help them prevent big messes or injuries. Show them how to do it, praise them for their skills, and thank them for their help! Have fun and enjoy this special time together.