As an occupational therapist, I have a strong desire to encourage independent living skills with my kids. At a very early age, I was encouraging them to dress themselves, brush their own teeth, bathe themselves … any life skill, it didn’t matter, I wanted them to be able to do for themselves. Cooking is one of those life skills.
Kids need to know how to cook. It’s part of being an adult. We depend on this skill to keep us fed, nourished, and healthy. If we want our kids to eat healthy as adults, then we need to teach them how to cook healthy meals. We need to get them in the kitchen. If not, they will go off to college not knowing the basics of cooking and end up eating at any fast food joint they come across. Getting your kids involved in the cooking process allows them to build a solid foundation that helps create healthy eating habits later in life.
Benefits of Cooking with Your Kids
Improves Math skills
Cooking healthy meals with your children at an early age introduces them sooner to different math skills they will be using later in life. All of the measuring and mixing exposes kids to the basic concepts of math. Adding a half cup of an ingredient with a tablespoon of another ingredient opens the door to discussion of what different measurements mean and how to decipher different amounts of ingredients needed for each recipe.
Improves Self Esteem
There is nothing more rewarding for my kids than serving a healthy, home cooked meal they helped make. Helping to cook dinner gives them a sense of accomplishment and boosts their confidence. My daughter always has a huge smile on her face and radiates with confidence whenever the family sits down to a dinner she helped make. Kids love to help and providing them with an opportunity as big as nourishing the family can really boost their self-esteem.
Cooking is a great time to communicate with our kids. Everyone is in the same room working together to achieve the same goal. During this time, we can see how our kids day went. Cooking together on a regular basis means quality time with your family on a regular basis. Starting the tradition of cooking meals together and engaging in regular conversation when kids are young sets a routine that can be important as our kids become teenagers. Cooking also provides an opportunity to discuss healthy foods with your kids. This time together can serve as a teaching opportunity to discuss why they need to eat more fruits and vegetables, why cooking at home is healthier than eating out, and how healthy foods create a healthy body. The more our kids become educated on healthy foods and how they create a healthy body, the more likely they are to make better food choices. Adding in the experience of helping to create a healthy meal makes it even more enticing for our kids to eat healthy.
Improves Their Palate
Involving kids in the cooking process provides us with an opportunity to introduce fresh, wholesome, and at times, unique foods. My kids are much more willing to try something new when they helped cook it. Kids are very curious by nature, so when something different catches my daughters eye while we are cooking, it’s not unusual for her to want to give it a try. Now, she doesn’t always like it, and I’m not saying miraculously your kids are going to love broccoli if you get them to cook it in a dish. My daughter won’t go near broccoli for anything! But when kids help in the kitchen, they are much more willing to eat the healthy foods because they made them. There is nothing more exciting and rewarding than getting to eat what they made. And when kids are introduced to a variety of healthy foods and become accustomed to eating these foods, they are more inclined to eat healthy as they get older.
There are many benefits to cooking with your kids. These are some of the big, more notable ones. Allowing your kids more time in the kitchen provides them the opportunity to expand on their life skills. It gives them the freedom to become more independent. Cooking fosters the development of many skills and gives them more exposure to different healthier foods. Ultimately, this can lead to the development of healthy habits they carry into adulthood.
I encourage you to start cooking with your kids as much as you can. Getting them involved in the cooking process can be a lot of fun for everyone. You may be surprised at what they can do in the kitchen.
Ashley N. is originally from Baton Rouge and moved to Mandeville with her husband and their 2 children. She loves to dance, cook, and spend time with her family. When she is not working as an occupational therapist, Ashley has a thriving health coaching practice. Her coaching focuses on helping busy, working moms find balance between family, life, and health. She also blogs at Happy Healthy and Well where she shares tips, tricks, and insights on living a healthy lifestyle while still having time for family and work.