Guest Author - Cynthia Kilmartin
My kids love to cook. My youngest who has just turned four says she wants to be a cook when she grows up, of course this is mixed with desires of being an astronaut among other dreams. Who knows when she is older maybe we will have chefs in space and both her dreams will be realised!
Since they could sit, my children have sat on my kitchen bench with me and enjoyed watching and participating in preparing the family meal. Of course this was partly because I have no other option, as many Mums will know, it can be very difficult to have time to cook when you have even one child to look after, let alone more. Also the practice of having your children sit on your kitchen bench is not without its critics. You do need to be very careful of where you put things, to keep certain things out of reach.
Making dinner together has become a bit of a family ritual for us, so I thought I would share some of my reasons.
10 reasons to cook with your kids.
1.Kids love to eat things things they have made themselves, and may be more likely to eat things they wouldn't normally try.
2.They learn about where food comes from, what it looks like and what goes into making the things they eat.
3.Cooking is an important life skill. I hope my kids will continue cooking when they are older, thereby continuing a tradition of good food and nutrition.
4.They taste the food raw and cooked, and eat a wide variety of foods both raw and cooked. Different texture, colours and flavours. I don't mind if they taste anything, in fact encourage them to taste any ingredient even if it is not too nice – like raw potatoes!
5.It is not only a time for family bonding, but enables me to keep an eye on them while I am cooking, and keeps them away from the TV for some time!
6.Kids love feeling like they are helping – even if we know they are hindering a little!!
7.Preparing food helps a lot on teaching planning, preparation, cleaning up and time management. It also helps with your own planning and time management.
8.Cooking their own food teaches them not only about good nutrition and balancing a meal but also about food hygiene. For example my kids are not allowed to touch the raw meat – but they see me washing my hands after I have.
9.Allowing your kids to help with something important – and delicious is something they can take pride in and help boost their self esteem and sense of achievement.
10.Cooking can be fun – having your kids there can help take the stress out of being in a hurry and trying to cook the fastest thing possible before 'disaster strikes' and lets you feel like you are spending time with them instead of being stuck in the kitchen.
Tips and examples
- let them be creative. I know they may make a mess – but you are going to wipe the bench anyway. If you don't want them to do exactly what you are doing then give them a small bowl of whatever raw ingredient you are using, for example a small bowl of rice or flour. In fact, some flour water and a wooden spoon will keep my kids busy for a good ten minutes! Putting rice in and out of containers with lids is also a good time 'user'.
- make sure they do learn safety – obviously they can't touch knives or can't go near a hot pan or boiling water. However knowing what it is and what they can and can't touch means they do not have the curiosity and are far less likely to pull a pan from the stove top because they wonder what it is. You do have to think about where you put knives,graters or other sharp implements, but again they learn what they can't touch and why.
- fake it – you can give them a food replacement while you are cooking, like plasticine. Or use their plasticine toy tools like small rolling pins and give them any excess food that would otherwise go in the bin like offcuts of pastry or even potato peelings to play with and experiment with. Even if they haven't actually made what they are eating they will feel like they have contributed, just by being there.
- take it in turns, for example in mashing potatoes, each of us have a turn – this will take longer but if you combine that you are spending time with them – teaching them something and getting dinner made, then it is a little extra time well spent.
- make it fun. Don't make it a chore. My kids know they are welcome to come and join me 'almost' all of the time. It is more or less an open invitation. Sometimes they are much more involved than other times depending on what I am preparing or time limitations. Have something else they can do on hand - like drawing a picture of the food - that allows them to still be a part of the process.
So whether your little one wants to be an astronaut or the next famous TV chef, make sure you enjoy your kids and your food and they will enjoy it too!