There are many activities we enjoy doing with our children and not all of them involve play. While play is the first thing we think of, there are other things we can get our kids to “help” them with, and these have benefits. Things like helping out with the laundry or cleaning up the car all have a purpose and can be useful.
However, it’s not uncommon for mothers not to want to involve their children in the household chores, assuming they can do it faster if they just do it themselves.
While this may be true, their children may be missing some important life skills that they will carry with them. There is also the added benefit that skills that were taught earlier are easier to learn and adopt. Cooking is another skill that children should be involved in, but (as with any task) it should be age appropriate. If you give a child a task that they are developmentally unable to complete, they are likely to become frustrated and give up before they even have a chance to try. It’s also more likely that they won’t want to try again in the future.
That’s why we’ve put together a complete guide to cooking with kids. It includes the benefits of having children help out in the kitchen, as well as age-specific guidance on what a child can do based on their current developmental level.
Benefits of Children Helping in the Kitchen
According to Mommy University, there are many benefits to having children help you in the kitchen, and they are worth taking seriously. At a very basic level, cooking can help children develop in almost every area. It can support their academic, cognitive and motor skills. Working with ingredients can help develop their fine motor skills, which is important for younger children.
As they cook with you, they learn about nutritional values and healthy eating. There is an opportunity to constantly talk about what we are putting into our bodies and what is helping us. It can also improve their math and reading skills, they need to learn to read a recipe and measure ingredients, which is the most basic lesson in cooking. It’s also a fun way to bond with your child and have quality time together.
What can they do: toddlers
Since a child can’t help you in the kitchen until infancy at the earliest, let’s start there. According to Mom To Mom Nutrition, there’s a lot toddlers are capable of, and the tasks can help them focus. But what can a toddler do in the kitchen?
A toddler is capable of grating cheese, which is perfect when you’re making pizza or anything that calls for some cheese. It helps their hand-eye coordination and affects their focus.
When baking, toddlers are quite capable of stirring and mixing ingredients. A friendly tip is to make sure you use a large bowl so less spills over the side. Toddlers are usually eager helpers and can be of great help in the kitchen.
What can they do: Preschoolers
Preschoolers are a little more developed than a toddler, but they will still be able to complete simple tasks. According to Unlock Food, preschoolers are able to handle small tasks like peeling hard-boiled eggs and making mashed potatoes. This is a great way to train their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Preschoolers will also be able to pour from a small jug or measuring cup, they can help you add ingredients to recipes. They may even be able to make their own sandwich or pizza when the ingredients are open and ready for them.
What can they do: School-age child
By the time a child reaches school age their skills will be very different than they were at preschool and they will be able to do a lot more in the kitchen. You should be able to operate most kitchen appliances with assistance. That means they should reach an age where they should be careful with a knife and start chopping up some ingredients. They should be able to crack an egg and learn how to follow a recipe. You can read the recipe and sort out the ingredients needed. This is when a child is starting to show some independence in the kitchen, but they probably still need supervision and some help.
What can you do: Tween
Tweens work on their confidence, and then Mom can probably give them a lot more independence. Then maybe Mom can drop the reins and let her explore and create in the kitchen.
According to Epicurious, if you’ve cooked with your child while they’re growing and developing, they should know their way around the kitchen. However, if you haven’t, don’t worry. Tweens should be able to read and follow a recipe themselves. You should know how to prepare most meals and how to use basic kitchen equipment. This may be the time Mom wants to teach them how to use the oven and that’s when safety skills come into play.
Mom can practice with her child when the stove is off and make sure they take all the necessary precautions. A tween should also be able to put together their own lunch, like a sandwich, without help.
What can they do: teenagers
Teenagers may still need their parents for many things, but they’re definitely more independent than any other age on this list. According to She Knows, teens should be fairly self-reliant in the kitchen, and at this point they can use the microwave and oven unsupervised.
To help them work on their cooking skills to prepare to live independently or navigate college life, put them on rotation to cook family meals. This helps them get creative with food and teaches them how to prepare a meal. If your teen doesn’t have any cooking skills, now is the time to start, but even then, they should be able to figure it out fairly quickly and efficiently.
Sources: Mommy University, Mom to Mom Nutrition, Unlock Food, Epicurious, She Knows
Basic cooking skills every child should know
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