As parents, many of us take great pleasure in feeding our children, in watching them enjoy the fruits of our labor, and nourishing their bodies. But as our kids get older, we need to provide them with the knowledge and tools to begin feeding themselves.
There are so many benefits in the process of teaching our kids to cook, both for you and for them. Both of you get the great joy of quality time together, and did you know that there is a surprisingly long, and surprisingly sophisticated list of educational benefits of teaching your kids to cook! Consider these benefits and these five simple tips to get you started…
Vocabulary development, reading comprehension, counting, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, measurement, fractions, spatial relations, sequencing, logical thinking, prediction, cause and effect, chemistry. No, that’s not a list of the skills your child will be developing in third grade this year. It’s a list of all of the skills you are helping your child to develop just by cooking with them.
Here are five simple tips to get you started…
1. Keep the mood light
Kitchens brim with potentially dangerous equipment. From hot stoves to sharp knives, there’s plenty around to make you nervous — but stay calm. Kids can read anxiety, and if you’re not relaxed, they won’t be either. Supervise them closely and be aware of hazards, but proceed anyway, with an upbeat voice and smiling eyes.
2. Strike a deal
Kids take to new learning opportunities best when they have a stake in the outcome, so make them part of the process. If they want to make cookies, let them. But the next lesson is yours to choose. Alternate between treats and more healthful, everyday fare, from cookies and pies to salads and smoothies.
3. Don’t neglect terminology
Kids are blank slates, and words like fold, sear, and sauté are meaningless until properly defined. You can use easier words if you like, but why bother? Mastering a new vocabulary is part of skill-building; plus, kids are sponges when it comes to language acquisition. Soon they’ll be bandying about these new words.
4. Dig deeper
Teaching kids to cook also presents opportunities to talk about culture, family history, nutrition, food politics, and hunger. Depending on your child’s age, consider sprinkling your lessons with gentle forays into these deeper waters, avoiding heavy-handed moralizing but introducing your kids to some of the broader issues surrounding food. You’re not just educating a future cook; you’re influencing a lifelong eater.
5. Keep your eye on the prize
Your ultimate goal is not the creation of restaurant-quality dishes, but boosting your child’s self-esteem and encouraging their burgeoning independence. If, at the end of your lessons, you’ve got a happy kid who’s excited to spend time in the kitchen, you’ve done your job, and done it well.
excerpts from: Cheryl Sternman Rule “Teaching your kids to cook”; Parenting Magazine 2011
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