Cooking With Young Children
By Brigid Henry
There are many benefits of cooking with your preschooler. It can build self-confidence, help children learn and practice basic math skills, lay the foundation for healthy eating habits and of course, it can be a lot of fun! With a little preparation and flexibility, and with the right expectations, time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be educational and joyful!
Counting eggs, measuring ingredients into measuring cups, going through the sequence of steps in a recipe are all great hands-on experiences that teach various skills. Count together while scooping cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Introduce new words from a recipe to expand your child’s vocabulary and promote literacy. Following steps in the recipe can help develop listening skills.
Having your child help with the preparation of meals can also help encourage an adventurous palate. Preschoolers can be picky eaters; by bringing them into the kitchen to help with cooking, you can open them up to new ideas. Children who get involved in preparation are more likely to try the food. You can talk about what foods and flavors they like and how eating healthy food makes a body grow strong.
The kitchen is a great place for exploring the senses. Listen to the sound of the mixer; feel the bread dough as you knead it and watch it rise. Smell it cooking in the oven and enjoy tasting it when it’s done.
Preschoolers love to show off their work and being able to show off their creations at the dinner table is such a satisfying way to demonstrate their growing abilities! The more they practice, the better their skills become, and they show a real sense of pride in their accomplishments.
Give them jobs suited to their age and developmental level, such as:
• stirring batter
• tearing lettuce
• adding ingredients
• assembling a pizza
I recommend using a step stool so children can easily reach the task at hand. Set them up for success. Remember, it’s about the process more than the end product. Praise their efforts! Many children enjoy the warm soapy water and the task of doing the dishes afterward, too.
Meal prep is a very social activity. A child must learn to share tools, work collaboratively, and help others. Discuss everyone’s roles as you engage in the process together.
Quality time spent contributing in the kitchen can begin a lifelong interest in cooking. It is a task you can build on over time and continue to enjoy with your children throughout your whole lifetime.