We all know that it is important to be able to cook as an adult. But sometimes we forget in the process of growing fantastic human beings, to take time to be in the kitchen with our kids. It takes effort and it takes patience. Throughout the years as a cooking instructor, I have never heard a parent say that cooking is not an important skill. But life can get in the way. What’s more, sometimes we are also concerned that kids don’t have the ability to follow the recipes or have the physical skills to be able to do harder tasks and stay safe.
We are all human, and we are all capable of learning new skills at any age, and our skills will improve overtime. The effort, I promise you, is worth it. My goal is to show you some surprising benefits that can come from teaching your kids to cook.
Keep in mind this does not have to be an everyday thing, this is not an all or nothing situation, and every bit helps. If you set up a practice of cooking with your kids once a week, your kids will improve in the 17 following areas:
Learning to cook…
1) Promotes healthier eating- When kids cook, they are more likely to be more aware of the types of ingredients and dishes they are consuming. They are also more likely to notice how the foods they eat, make them feel. Kids start to understand the importance of making choices in what they consume. A study done in Alberta, Canada showed that kids who cooked at home more than once per week, made healthier food choices when given food options.*
2) Cuts down on picky eating. Kids who are learning to cook, are more willing to try and use new ingredients, and tend to be more curious about new foods that they were previously not used to. I have seen many students of mine, open their minds up quickly to new foods and dishes, as they learned how to make them, and as they got to see what went into the recipes. It has been very exciting for the parents to watch their children expand their eating choices!
3) Gives appreciation for real food and where it comes from. Expanding on the idea just presented, this third reason follows suit. When children are exposed to ingredients in the kitchen and learn to work with those ingredients, tasting it along the way, they grow a more enriched understanding of the ingredients themselves. They get a glimpse into the cycle of how it goes from growing in the ground or how it is raised, to then going through the preparation process, which brings the food to their plates!
4) Builds relationships. Cooking can be a communal activity. Children, while learning in the kitchen, have the opportunity to bond with their family members. They get to work as part of a team, and they are then exposed to new conversations that they may not have had in another setting! This is also true when learning to cook outside the home. Of my student, bring friends along to learn together, and deepen their bond in friendship. I have also had quiet and shy students that come into a group class, and I have watched them slowly open up to their peers through cooperative and collaborative activities, gaining new friendships in the process.
5) Gives the opportunity to serve and be a part of the family community. This is a key piece that goes along with the previous reason of building relationships, but also with reason 7 in building confidence. Through building relationships and confidence, kids can feel like a key part of the family unit. They feel like they have a place and an important job in the household. Children start to feel more giving, in the process of serving food that they made, for the whole family.
6) Relieves parents of being the primary meal makers. Once kids start to get confident in kitchen skills, parents find that they are active participants in the meal making. School lunches and after school snacks are made by the kids. Kids will feel like they can expand their meals and eventually make meals for other family members. This relieves parents and other caregivers from some of the family cooking duties.
7) Provides a space to build self-confidence and independence. This, of course, is another facet of the cooking experience that goes hand in hand with number 4. When kids are given a task that they are responsible for, they incorporate it more effectively into their learning. They take pride in what they accomplish. They feel like they have met the challenges and produced a finished meal. They will build a better understanding of their own inner strength and ability, which will in turn make them more confident. Along side reason number 6, kids can then become more independent and feel like they can take charge in more areas of their lives.
8) Can be an emotional outlet. It has been studied, that cooking is connected to having a greater emotional intelligence. Cooking can reduce depressive symptoms and burnout. It can help to redirect to positive assessments of well-being. These traits in cooking can help to promote emotional resilience in kids’ lives. *
9) Develops life skills. Other than the obvious life skill of being able to cook for themselves, learning to cook, being a part of the shopping process, etc., can help kids have a better understanding of budgeting, organization, decision making and communication skills.
10) Develops fine motor skills and manual dexterity. Fine motor skills, where kids learn to manipulate small objects and have more control of their hands and finger, as you can imagine are important physical kills that need to be developed. Manual dexterity, where kids strengthen their limbs through physical exercise and help them find balance, is also important. These skills are frequently employed when learning cooking techniques which can help kids thrive physically and mentally.
11) Develops executive functions. Executive functions like planning, time management, and situational awareness, are necessary when working in the kitchen. Young cooks begin to decide for themselves when to initiate a task or to move to the next step. These are skills used for making decisions, such as when a child is ready to initiate a task or are ready to move to the next step or stage. Kids learn to evaluate a situation due to safety, or stop and think, before acting. Kids develop the ability to adapt and be flexible during preparation of their dishes or cleanup. When the unexpected happens, kids are forced to think on their feet and adapt to new situations. Doing recipes from memory is also an excellent exercise for the developing mind.
12) Develops critical thinking skills. Kids who are able to think critically, have the ability to solve problems when they arise. As I alluded to before, recipes, don’t always go as planned. Part of the learning process is to be able to figure out what went wrong so that the next time the child creates the recipe it will come out better! Identifying techniques and how ingredients work in a recipe are key critical thinking skills. This will help kids develop their own perspectives and resolve how to make recipes better.
13) Develops organization and cleanliness. As I mentioned in number 9, organization and cleanliness are important life skills, but let’s go further. We, as chefs, learn about “Mis-en-place” on the first day of culinary school. This means “everything in its place”. To work efficiently in the kitchen, you must be familiar with the location of the ingredients and the tools, and have them organized and ready for the food preparation. The second part of this, is also making sure that all the preparation that comes before cooking (cutting veggies, washing meats, plates, and pans, etc.), is done all at once. Keeping every area of the kitchen clean when you cook is necessary to keep up with sanitation. Cleaning as you go, helps this task become easier, and is a key part of teaching kids to cook.
14) Helps kids practice following instructions. As you may imagine, following a recipe and directions from parents requires paying attention, remembering the details, and then being able to execute the information provided to make the recipe. When kids can practice all these skills in a fun and enjoyable environment, the benefits are endless.
15) Helps to practice math skills, science skills, and reading skills. As I started to explain in benefit #14, following a recipe requires many mental skills. Reading and comprehension are at the core of being able to cook from a written recipe. If you are scaling a recipe to fit the size of your family, you may have to multiply or divide the measurements of the ingredients. In addition, elementary math skills include understanding measurements and discerning fractions. Blending ingredients together and adding heat, changes the composition of ingredients through chemical reactions, which are some of the most connectable ways to learn about science.
16) Can promote creativity. Cooking activates all of your senses! Kids get to choose colorful ingredients, make aroma combinations with spices, pick flavorful ingredient fusions, prepare foods with a variety of textures, and hear the crackles, the bubbling, popping, and fizzing of the dishes as they are being prepared. With the emotional aspect added to all of the senses, cooking is a ripe environment for activating creative inclinations. It can allow for innovation in the skills used and give a place to work with the resources available.
17) Helps to educate on culture and expand understanding of others through food. We live in an age where we have access to ingredients and dishes from cultures all around the world. Traditional dishes made from their parents’ cultures gives kids a sense of pride for where they come from, but also allows them to explore what other kids may eat in their homes. It gives them a place to find understanding and makes kids more welcoming to others from different backgrounds. Food is a great way to find connection and to become a better part of the community.
I hope that these 17 unexpected benefits get you energized to get your kids into the kitchen, a little more often! Remember that cooking together isn’t an all-or-nothing scenario, cooking together, just a little more effort to engage kids in the cooking process makes a huge difference. I hope that you take the time to connect with your family and make room for some time well spent, cooking up meals and snacks together with your loved ones. I believe that cooking together is one of the most enjoyable, special moments you can spend with family. So, cheers to you, and happy cooking!
If you would like to learn more about how to cook with your kids, keep a look out for future blog posts, for more resources. We also invite you to check out our cooking classes for some inspiration!
If you found this post useful, please “like” it and share it with your friends! We welcome any comments below, if you have cooked often with your kids and write benefits that you have found in the experience, or if you have any further questions about this topic.
You can also check out more information about cooking with kids in future blogs. If you are interested in going deeper with cooking and baking, we invite you to check out our cooking and baking classes!
*Study in Alberta, Canada, by University of Alberta "Kids who cook are hungrier for healthy food choices". Kids who cook are hungrier for healthy food choices -- ScienceDaily
About Becky W:
Chef, Cooking Instructor, and Owner of Becky's Pixie Kitchen. My goal is to impact as many people, through my passion for food, in order to improve their lives with physical health, mental health, and quality of life.
At Becky's Pixie Kitchen we create cooking classes for the community to help kids and adults who want to cook at home, by providing instruction that promotes enthusiasm, encourages curiosity and focuses on the important pieces that make techniques and recipes easy and repeatable.