“C” Is for Cooking—With Kids!

Children are curious from the very beginning of their lives.  They wonder how things in their world work and desire a hands-on experience when it comes to satiating these curiosities.  One popular way to satisfy the eager-to-learn child is to cook with them.  Cooking with your kids is not only fun, it’s a great way for a child to experience that true sense of accomplishment that comes from creating a work of their own from start to finish.  The expert educators at KidzClix.net, an online magazine for children and creators of Kidz Kitchen, share these insightful ideas:


1.       Parents, Let Go of Your Fears and allow your children to take hold of the spatula!  Of course, a great deal of care must be exercised with a child in the kitchen since there are many safety issues.  Age appropriateness should be of utmost concern.  Obviously, a three-year old should not be permitted to use a sharp knife.  But an eight-year old can be taught to tuck in his fingers while chopping ingredients.  Even that same three-year old might be able to use a blunt butter knife to slice ripe bananas for her mother.  Mixing and rolling can be terrific ways for the young helper to practice his skills.  Later on, children can complete an entire recipe on their own, beginning by reading the recipe with an adult to answer any questions beforehand.  Adult presence is important, regardless of the age of the young cook. 


2.       Cooking 101:  Cooking is also a creative way to learn important skills such as math, chemistry and reading.  Good listening skills will also be honed during any cooking session.  Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the trend.  Cooking schools offering classes just for children are popping up in many cities throughout the country.  Some even provide child-sized kitchens and utensils made for smaller hands. For children who prefer to experience the adventure of cooking right in their own kitchens, KidzClix.net offers an exciting cooking program called Kidz Kitchen, where children from all over the world demonstrate their cooking skills, with recipes which can also be downloaded and printed out to try right at home. By following a recipe from beginning to end, children discover the yummy rewards of completing a project.  They also enjoy a true sense of personal accomplishment, while learning an important skill that many young adults are lacking – the ability to cook a healthy meal using real ingredients.  Anyone can distinguish between the taste of a true home-cooked meal versus a box of hamburger macaroni dinner.  And anyone who has cooked a homemade meal knows the good feeling they get when they sit down to eat a meal that they made themselves.


3.       Bonding Time:  We have all heard that having regular family dinners is an important way to ensure a stronger family bond.  Many of the same benefits can be reaped by cooking dinner with your kids.  Of course, after a long day at work, cooking may seem to be the last thing on a parent’s mind.  In many homes, families routinely eat take-out, or parents whip up a partially processed meal while the kids watch television.  Some families even eat in different rooms. However, by taking a little extra time in the kitchen and engaging children at those moments, both parents and kids can reap rich rewards.  It’s a great way to introduce children to treasured family recipes.  And giving your child the opportunity to cook helps build their confidence, especially if the product of their hard work is valued within the family. 


4.       Get Creative:  Once a child feels comfortable in the kitchen, it is a great idea to let her take over a bit.  Allow the child to make up recipes or to research recipes from other cultures.  It is especially fun for a child to feel like he is head chef for a day.  Trying new foods together allows for more bonding time.  Another idea is to let the child cook freestyle with the help of an adult.  Put those cookbooks back on the shelf for the evening!  Children love to experiment and there is no better teacher than trial and error.  And kids will be extremely proud when a recipe that they invented turns out well and is enjoyed by the entire family.


5.       Celebrate:  An excellent way to celebrate the newest chef in the household is to invite friends and family over to partake in the feast.  Imagine the pride children feel when they are asked to cook for guests.  Again, make sure that the meal is age appropriate.  For example, a 10 year old can prepare a menu and recipes, while her seven-year-old brother can be in charge of stirring and reading the steps.


Above all, parents should cherish the time spent with their children in the kitchen.  It is a terrific learning and bonding experience for all involved.  Start out small and allow the responsibilities to increase gradually.  Cooking can be a family affair.

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