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teaching kids to cook

Children are tiny adults; from a young age, they are a sponge, soaking up everything they see and hear around them. I choose to see this as an inherently positive thing, as it means we can inspire them to be curious, creative, thoughtful, kind, and caring humans from the start. Part of this curiosity and creativity can begin in the kitchen. Not only does it allow you to bond with your child at almost any age, it will give children a healthy relationship with food, and a way for them to be independent and appreciate the food they eat. Let’s get cooking!

1.  Teach them about food

As kids, their diets can be fussy. From what I remember, my sister used to exist on chicken nuggets and egg yolks. But knowing there are other textures, flavors, and colors of food out there will only help you all find food to feed the family. Sure, your kid might not like peas. But what if they love the taste of hummus after mashing chickpeas? Or avocados after making guacamole? Those are two different snacks you never thought you could get your kids to eat. If you can veer away from the restaurant menu of fries, burgers, and cheesy pasta and introduce some variety early on, you’ll all be happy.

2.  Teach them to feed themselves

When kids go off to college, it’s typical that most of them don’t know how to do much more than boil water or make toast. Aren’t we setting them up for failure, even if they are on a self-catered meal plan? Teaching your children how to prep and make food that’s healthy and that they enjoy eating sets them up for a life of good meals and quick fixes that will stop them from having to reach for the delivery menu or instant mac every night. Good foundations create good habits.

3.  Teach them to love food

I always felt very proud when I knew that I had helped make the food that appeared on the table for the family meal, even if I just wielded the potato masher or stirred the sauce. If you get kids involved early, in even the basic parts of meal prep, you can stir up their enthusiasm and curiosity for food. They’ll want to help you, so start with simple tasks (stirring, measuring) and work your way up to some of the more intricate details of cooking (cutting, grating, boiling).

4.  Teach them fine motor skills

This may seem basic, but you can actually help develop your kids fine motor skills in the kitchen without having them be your sous chef. Stuff like buttering toast, measuring out ingredients, using a plastic knife to cut soft vegetables like lettuce, or stirring a bowl all help your kids develop their motor skills. And there is little to no danger involved with these activities, so you can learn and play together stress free!

5.  Teach them self-confidence

Cooking is such an easy way to build a kid’s confidence. Sure, cooking fails are a thing (not as much as with baking, where every part of the recipe matters) but kids don’t have to ace a five-course meal to be able to reap the benefits of a job well done. No matter how much you help and cheer on the sidelines, they are going to take credit for that meal. Whether you turn the stove off and on, or do half the work for them, that meal? They made it. So stand back parents, and hand them the whisk. The pancake batter is all theirs this morning (and you have the task of making a masterpiece of the of them on the stove).

6.  Teach (or encourage) creativity

The kitchen might seem like an odd place to encourage creativity, but having children play with flavors, colors, and textures is just the beginning. If they have a favorite meal, have them help you make it in, even if they just help in small ways. Get them involved with taste testing in particular. Maybe even have them suggest ways in which you can change the recipe, and have them help with the adjustments. Remember, their taste buds are different, so adding an odd vegetable here and there might seem gross to you but delicious to them. See where you can stash vegetables, and let the recipe making begin!

Teaching kids to cook early on not only helps them with math and fractions (hello measuring cups) and gives them a taste of responsibility (pushing buttons and wielding a knife), it also gets them interested in food, healthy eating, and what their putting their bodies. And all you need to start is a step-stool so your kids can see over the counter. Start cooking with your kids today and see them grow in confidence and ability!

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