There's no need to pretend that teaching a child how to cook is an easy task — unless you're a culinary instructor that does it for a living. It takes patience to teach a kid how to use a knife safely, how to wash fruits and vegetables properly, and how to follow a recipe without taking any shortcuts.
However, the time invested in teaching your children how to cook is time well-spent. It not only provides you with quiet moments to bond with your youngster but also offers myriad other benefits, including boosting confidence, teaching math and science, and imparts wisdom on other cultures.
- Cooking together provides quality family time: Cooking time is a bonding time for parent and child. It often allows kids to relax and share what's going on in their lives, even if they're otherwise reticent to open up to a parent.
- Preparing food helps kids appreciate parents: It might seem sometimes that kids think meals come out of nowhere. Teaching a child how to cook helps them understand how much time and effort it takes for a parent to make a healthy, tasty meal for the family.
- Cooking expands their palates: When a child cooks a new food or dish on their own. they are more likely to eat it — or at least try it. They may not eat all of it. They may not eat any of it the first time you make it together. Over time, though, kids will get comfortable with the idea of new foods and, eventually, they will start to try them.
- Making a meal boosts confidence: When kids can say, "I made it myself," they feel a sense of accomplishment. Even more, when other family members say they liked what the child cooked, he or she feels a sense of pride and achievement. That can lead to the child becoming more self-confident in other areas of their life, too.
- Following a recipe teaches math: Cooking teaches kids everything from fractions to temperatures to geometry. Is a 1/2 cup bigger than 1/4 cup? What's the difference between the temperature of baking versus broiling? What's a 9x13 pan versus a 9x9 pan?
- Understanding a recipe improves reading comprehension: Cooking is one of the best ways to show kids that reading offers tangible results. Following step-by-step instructions to get to a finished result is an important reading skill, and using that skill to cook shows a kid that reading has very practical benefits.
- The process of cooking food demonstrates chemistry principles: Take, for example, the browning of marshmallows on top of brownies — it's chemistry at a level that a child can understand.
- Grocery shopping communicates where food comes from: Part of cooking is shopping. When you cook together, kids learn that pizza doesn't have to come from a restaurant and spaghetti sauce doesn't have to come from a jar. One of the easiest and most enjoyable things to cook with kids is bread. Many kids think bread is a raw ingredient, but just showing them that they can make bread in their own homes is a revelation You don't even have to make it by hand. The act of adding ingredients to a bread machine and getting a loaf of delicious warm bread three hours later is enough to make an impression.
- Choosing recipes educates on culture: It is far more interesting to teach kids about the Lunar New Year by making an authentic recipe than by giving them a history lesson.
- Cooking imparts a basic but important life skill: When the kids are out of the house, you won't need to worry about them as much if you're sure they know how to cook. Their budget won't be hit as hard by constant take-out meals, and you will be fairly certain that they're not living on a diet of take out food or fast-food, exclusively.