Cooking with your kids not only makes memories, it’s a great way to learn and grow. Check out these 9 important reasons to get into the kitchen as a family. Learn about age appropriate skills and try some easy, delicious recipes.
Cooking with Your Kids – 9 Important Reasons
From toddlers to teens, cooking does more than just provide a meal. Here are 9 great reasons why your kids should develop some culinary skills:
#1 Good Nutrition Habits: Kids are more inclined to eat healthy when they have a hand in preparing a meal. Inspire that habit with visits to PYO farms, community stores and farmers markets.
#2 Life Skills for Self-Sufficiency: Through menu planning, shopping, preparing and even cleaning the kitchen, cooking teaches important lessons. Besides developing culinary skills, your child learns how to budget, manage time, and (hopefully) acquire some basic housekeeping skills.
#3 Creative Outlet: Creativity is an important part of childhood development and cooking is definitely an art. It provides a way for experimentation and expression.
#4 Math and Science Skills: There’s a saying in the culinary world -”Cooking is an art. Baking is a science.” Measuring, mixing, and cooking techniques teach terrific math and science skills in a real environment.
Cooking with Your Kids – More Great Reasons
#5 Hand/Eye Coordination: Using a knife properly is at the heart of cooking. Working in the kitchen is one of the best ways to develop hand/eye coordination. And flipping veggies in a saute pan? Now that’s an awesome hand/eye coordination skill!
#6 Sensory Development: Cooking involves all five of the senses. We “eat first with our eyes,” so plating a delicious meal teaches a creative balance of colors and textures. Taste and smell come into play while cooking. A sense of touch is developed through handling different foods. Even hearing is involved, from the sound of a timer to listening for that boiling pot or sizzling pan.
#7 Patience: Cooking requires the ability to work with timelines and to let dishes progress to their completion. And learning patience is a great life skill for our fast-paced world.
#8 Confidence: Whenever a child masters a new skill or activity, confidence is gained. And that kitchen confidence gives courage to try other things.
#9 Family Time: Being in the kitchen provides an opportunity to share heritage and culture. Just think of the stories behind those family recipes that have been handed down through generations. Imagine the ways you can give a new twist to cultural culinary favorites. And you’ll be amazed at the conversations you’ll have in the “neutral territory” of the kitchen.
Cooking with Your Kids – When to Start
Even little guys and gals can play a role in the kitchen. And how empowering it is for school age children to prepare their own cool lunches and healthy snacks. Teens gain a sense of autonomy in the kitchen. And often that love of the kitchen turns into a culinary career. Here’s a breakdown of age appropriate skills sets and tasks, courtesy of Williams Sonoma and Self-Sufficient Kids:
Preschoolers Ages 2-5: If your child enjoys kitchen play, this is an ideal time to start learning about the real thing. Stirring and whisking are simple tasks for young chefs, along with using cookie and biscuit cutters. Kindergarteners can start their math skills with measuring ingredients. And they can even burn off some excess energy mashing potatoes or rolling out dough.
Young Cooks Ages 6-8: Here’s where your children can really start to experience the joys of cooking. Under supervision, this age group can learn how to boil pasta, make grilled cheese sandwiches, fry an egg, grate cheese, and use small knives and other kitchen tools like a can opener, juicer or garlic press. With those mixing and measuring skills, they’re now able to take on making cookie dough and brownie batter.
More Age Appropriate Cooking with Your Kids
Preteens Ages 9-12: At this stage, your child can now become your “sous chef” by trimming and slicing vegetables. You’ll also want to introduce your budding cook to specialty appliances like a blender, mixer or waffle maker, as well as timers and thermometers. And at this age (and again with supervision) kids can take on the stove, roasting and baking in the oven and frying up a hamburger or making a pot of soup.
Teenagers Ages 13-16: By now, you have some real culinary talent in the home and they’re ready to take on more. And even if they haven’t taken the previous steps, they can catch up on the basics pretty quickly. Teens can continue to work on their knife skills, bake more complicated pastries and desserts, and perfect their outdoor grilling techniques.
And remember – if they make it, the odds are pretty good that they are going to eat it!
Fun and Easy Recipes for Cooking with Your Kids
The best recipes for cooking with your kids usually involve (healthy) foods they love. Be on the lookout for dishes that incorporate their favorite flavors in new ways. Start with age appropriate recipes that work with developing skill sets. And above all, have fun!
Even the youngest cook (with a little help) can get creative with a peanut butter sandwich. Amp it up by mixing honey, cinnamon and semi-sweet chocolate chips into the peanut butter, then hand your child the butter knife for slicing a banana to add to that “sammie.” This one is a great school lunch staple.
And at any age, what kid doesn’t enjoy a snack? The trick is to make it delicious – and healthy. Take advantage of fresh seasonal produce and try a blueberry pancake or strawberry lime smoothie. And if you’re looking to replace those chips in the lunch bag, then try this terrific recipe for crunchy granola pretzel sticks.
When it comes to teens, the culinary mission is two-fold. They want easy recipes that can impress their friends. And once in a while, they like to show a little “family love” with a simple, yet delicious, meal. Check out Martha’s Stewart’s take on easy meals teens can make. Mini deep dish pizzas are sure to impress the gang, while slow-cooked pulled pork makes a hearty family meal without a lot of fuss. There’s even a healthy recipe for that teenage/college staple Ramen noodles.
Where to Get Those Cooking Skills
Maybe you’re a natural chef or had the benefit of growing up with talented home cooks. But a lot of us are doing good just to boil water. If you fall into that camp, consider a few cooking lessons for you and your child. It’s a wonderful way to learn something new together. In the Winchester area (the heart of the VA Kids Trail), you’ll find cooking classes for ages 6-11 at Nibblins.
Want to bring the lessons to your kitchen? Then try an online course through Tiny Chefs. And if you want to combine culinary skills with good nutrition, give the helpful parenting website Kids Cook Real Food a look.
Become Inspired to Cook with Sprouts!
This November, you and your family will become inspired to cook with the Sprouts Family Food Festival at West Oaks Farm & Market in Winchester. This day-long educational celebration includes interactive experiences, demonstrations, and competitions centered around the Shenandoah Valley’s locally sourced food movement. Come meet the farmers, food artisans, and chefs who make up the Taste of Blue Ridge community, along with local businesses who support family fun and outdoor adventure. Stay up to date with festival happenings by joining Taste’s Foodie Newsletter.
Whether you’re a pro in the kitchen or just learning the lay of the land yourself, cooking with your kids teaches so much and makes for lasting memories. So drop the drive-thru and get cooking!