WASHINGTON — You may be trying to get your kids out of the house and away from video games this summer, but there’s one indoor activity that could be both fun and educational for your kids and it doesn’t involve a game console or a controller: It’s learning how to cook.
Before you’re terrified by thoughts of your kids making a mess of your kitchen, Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires said teaching your kids to cook provides many benefits for the entire family.
“Experts have found that not only do kids learn good cooking skills, but they also increase their preference for vegetables, and they become more confident about choosing the right foods,” Squires said. “Those findings come from a Colorado program called Cooking with Kids involving more than 250 fourth-graders in four schools which taught kids how to cook.”
Squires said that even very young kids can be exposed to cooking knowledge — nothing potentially dangerous, of course, but preschoolers can participate in many aspects of food preparation, and they’ll get a better understanding of what it takes to make a meal, the joys of doing it and how they can help control some of the tastes and flavors in the foods they want to eat.
You wouldn’t give toddlers a knife or a fork to handle by themselves, Squires said, but you might consider handing them a wooden spoon and teaching them how to stir ingredients together for pudding or brownies or cookies, for example.
“It’s also easy for kids of all ages to wash produce. And most kids love playing with water … so why not involve them in this,” Squires added. “And it provides another opportunity to remind kids about washing their hands before food prep.”
Preparing meals helps develop other skills. Squires noted that there’s a bit of critical thinking and creativity, and a little bit of chemistry and math, involved in cooking.
“So you’re teaching kids about measurements and about cooking times, and, for younger kids, about reading and interpreting recipes and adapting them to their tastes and this whole concept of self-efficacy, which is really important for kids to feel like they’ve mastered something,” she said.
And as kids learn how to prepare certain meals, it will take some of the pressure off mom and dad at times, and perhaps kids can prepare meals for younger siblings.
She said these early cooking lessons can develop into skills — and hopefully a love of food — that can benefit your child throughout their entire life.
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