When you were a child you most likely helped in the kitchen. Perhaps it was stirring a cake batter, rolling meatballs or cutting cookie dough into little treats at Christmas time. This experience not only offered a special moment shared with the caregiver but an opportunity to ignite a passion and love for cooking.
Developing life skills is an important part of growing up. From tying shoelaces to choosing what to wear for the day, children cherish and seek autonomy with their daily choices and actions. When it comes to cooking and children are involved in the process of making a meal there is an enormous amount of pride and a sense of achievement. Your chances of having them try and new vegetable or cuisine are tenfold as they cut, measure, mix and lick their way to creating fun meals.
Just like a blank canvas, the kitchen also can be a place where imagination can run wild. As parents, it is easy to be caught up in the mess that is being made or what a recipe says it requires – so we do need to exercise a little bit of flexibility and leave the cleaning up until later!
Inspiring Little Chefs
- When children grow the food, they’re connected to the food. When they’re connected to the food there is a sense of achievement. Try growing some herbs in a veranda pot or cultivating extravagant vegetable vines if you have the room. Watching the process from seedling to grown vegetables is a simple joy and helps form the connection from garden to plate.
- My children always enjoyed putting on their own apron, and gloves and standing on their designated stool for height at the kitchen bench. Age-appropriate cutlery will encourage kids to cut, spoon and take part in what you are preparing for family meals. Having a conversation about how they think the ingredients are grown, and what they do for our health (avocadoes are great for skin, tomatoes help us see etc) will further the connection and importance of cooking for health.
- Have one night a week where your little chef takes the responsibility to create their own menu for dinner. Flick through some pictures of uncomplicated recipes in cookbooks or ask them what they would like to make. Continue the process by taking them shopping, collecting the ingredients and helping them bring it all together with the prep. Of course, when it comes to hot ovens and stove tops, they may need to observe but I’m sure by that stage most are happy to take a break!
- As your child’s fine motor skills develop so too will their ability to help. Whether it is simply turning on a blender button when you are making a smoothie, sieving flour for a cake batter, whisking eggs for an omelette (watch they don’t taste it) or making ice blocks, there are millions of opportunities each day for your child to be involved and understand what happens in the kitchen.
- Encourage your children to watch TV shows about cooking. Masterchef inspires millions of adults each year to get busy in the kitchen and there are TV shows also aimed at stimulating a child’s curiosity for cooking. Disney’s Be Our Chef, Waffles + Mochi or YouTube shows such as I Can Cook and Big Cook Little Cook are great choices.
While children are young we have the perfect time to set up what could be a lifetime love of cooking. Even if it is something you don’t entirely embrace and find tedious – don’t forget our children are little sponges and develop and learn through what they experience.