Let’s Get Our Kids in the Kitchen

Family Life

Get your kids in the kitchen! They’ll learn so many important life skills.

If you have read my previous posts, you know I am a big proponent of going grocery shopping with the kids. Yes, part of it is necessity, but another part of it has to do to with teaching the kids about where food comes from and how to make proper dietary choices. On top of this, according a recent article, taking picky eater shopping may help them expand what they are willing to eat.

These are key life skills that I hope to ingrain in them so that they learn to make proper food choices. Sure, they are normal kids who like junk food, but my kids also enjoy fresh fruit and appreciate the taste of vegetables.

This brings me to another activity overlooked by many parents: teaching your children how to cook. How else are they going to learn if they don’t see it happen right before their eyes? Its another form of modeling that I think we as parents need to include them in. In fact there are many reasons why you should cook with your children. This includes sharing responsibility, learning through application, and experiencing different taste and textures.

If you are brave enough, you can teach them about different cultures through food.

How old should they be before you let the kids in the kitchen?

I first started “cooking” with Dyl when he was about 1. Your kids must understand and be able to follow basic instructions before you let them start to help, because there are lots of dangers in a kitchen, from knives, to hot stoves, to falling off the counter.

Yes, the latter happened to Dyl once, but I caught him before he hit the floor.

I began with eggs, mostly because it is one of our go-to lunches on the weekend. With both boys, it started with simply sitting on the counter as I did what I needed to do. They watched intently and handed me things I needed like spatulas.

Over time, they got more into it. They wanted to start actually helping. So I let them mix the eggs, or add ingredients to a bowl. Also they get a kick out of using the big spoons to mix. As they have expressed more of an interest, I am up for letting them try just about anything.

Cooking requires a host of skills that really match what kids learn in school. There are the obvious ones like reading and math, which are needed to follow a recipe. But there are abstract skills they learn too… concepts around smells, textures and tastes.

Besides, what better place to learn about flavours and textures than in the one room in the house that is dedicated to smells, taste, and texture?

Ry has asked repeatedly for peanut butter and cheese. He likes peanut butter, and he likes cheese, so he figured he could put them together. So we did a little experiment, and Ry made his first original creation. As it turns out, Ry discovered that this is not a popular combination for a good reason. But how else could he have learned that had we not tried together?

What can the kids in the kitchen do?

The answer is simple: they can and will do anything that you let them do.

I’m not advocating for giving a 5-year-old the 8” chef knife and asking them to filet a salmon, but Dyl is more than capable of cracking eggs, and pouring milk into a bowl to help me make French toast. Ry is a master with a whisk, and by extension, I am a master at cleaning up after him. He is just starting to get good at cracking eggs. Dyl can now use a peeler and can peel a carrot. It takes him an hour, but he is so proud that he can help. Beyond that, he is experiencing first hand the effort that goes into making dinner for the family.

The great thing about getting the kids in the kitchen with you is that it opens up countless possibilities.

I­­t creates another dialogue about health and how to make proper food choices. It also helps the kids learn that there is more to life that instant mac and cheese, hot dogs, or microwavable dinners. It’s a chance for them to be culinary adventurers. Part of our shopping ritual is discussing what we will be having for dinner. The kids are a great help in picking the basic ingredients (chicken vs beef) but what I have found most helpful is they can help decide how to prepare the food that they chose.

Don’t think that it just has to be meals that you prep with your kids, how about mixing up a batch of cookies, or muffins. Really the possibilities are endless. Though cooking and meal prep is a chore for us parents, for kids it is fun and something different. Its an opportunity for them to learn and grow.

So, how are you going get your kids into the kitchen? What is your first meal going to be with them? Let me know in the comments below.

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Andrew Levy PhD

About Andrew Levy PhD

Andrew obtained his PhD from the University of Waterloo in Physiology, a topic not entirely having to do with with kids health specifically. Andrew’s expertise in kids health and raising children stems from his now 4+ years of direct hands on experiences with 4 young boys. My goal is to share some practical advice and some of the little not-so-perfect things my kids have done and how we managed to figure it all out so you can too.

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