Cooking with children can be useful and fun
During the cold winter months, when the opportunities for outdoor activities are limited, when the anti-epidemic measures prevent us from meeting other children and adults, we need to be not only patient but also creative in making up home activities for the whole family. Sometimes, the solutions are in front of us but it is a matter of will for action to take them. Here is an example for such a solution - to take and transform such a vital activity as cooking into a pleasant and valuable one. We present to you this type of family activity, with all its positive effetcs on children and their upbringing and development. We do not need to be in the winter season or under epidemic lockdown in order to put it to action. What it takes is just will, patience and appetite, as with all good things!
When we involve our children in the process of cooking, with tasks inspired by their capabilities and age, we can achieve a positive impact in many directions. The younger the child is when we start involving them in family cooking, the easier they will develop an interest in it. In fact, it is possible that your child has already expressed desire to join you during cooking, and it is good to satisfy this will. Of course, we should know in advance that cooking together may take longer, that it may be messier than usual, and that the look of the dish may differ from the one we usually prepare ourselves. The key is to be persistent in these activities so that the child could gain long-term experience and habits. It is up to each parent to consider how often cooking with the children is possible and reasonable.
Tip: It is good the first trial to be with a recipe which is not that complicated but in the same way is preferred by the children, so that the success rate would be higher and children would have the wish to try again some other time. It is also recommendable that the parent spend some time in advance considering what tasks and duties can propose to the children in the particular recipe preparation.
The handiness and the fine motor skills, which are usually developed during children's games and some tasks which we give them, can also be naturally practised during some cooking activities. Let us keep in mind that the expected results from a particular action are a strong motivation not only for us, but also for children. In this light, when you propose to your child to cook together dinner, dessert or soup, they will have a motivation to get involved and proceed with a task you suggested. What is more, the child would be very glad to help, to be a part of some adult's activity and to be a contributter to the preparation of a tasty dish. Peeling boiled eggs, potatoes, fruits, removing nutshells, are tasks that offer possibilities for finer hand work and training attention and accuracy.
The act of preparation of any recipe can be casual exercise of reading, calculating and defining measurements. As a start, we can propose to the child to read through the recipe, so that we can get everything set. During the preparation we can ask the child to follow and compare the directions and our actions. The child can also count and set apart the needed products. By getting the child involved in the cooking, we get the great chance to genuinely demonstrate the practical use of the variety of the measure units which are used in the kitchen. If we have a kitchen scale, we can weigh the ingredients, check the volume of a particular utensil, see how a particular weight of an ingredient looks like, and in this way provide an opportunity for developing a sense of measurement without instruments.
In order to get the child to build the steps and the logic around the preparation of a particular food or recipe, we need to explain what we do. When we give the child a task, we should draw to their attention the key points in the actions and what may be hard to accomplish; we need to demonstrate and explain which part of the recipe we are working on. For example, if we are cooking a soup and we ask the child to wash and peel the carrots, we need to show how it is done first. We should also explain what follows after the carrots are washed and peeled (that we, the parent, will cut them), in which moment we put them to boil, etc.
All the steps in the food preparation are a chance for creating positive attitude to the products and the food. We can smell, taste, pick some leaves together. In this way, the sensory perception is activated and the impressions get deeper. From this point on, the interest in cooking and in the goods of nature is surely stronger. We can also comment and compare food taste, preferred and interesting combinations.
It is good to encourage and praise children by commenting on their cooking achievements in particular. We should not be afraid to give advice; we can also make some notes but in a suitable way with carefully picked words and tone, in order to avoid stress or demotivation.
Without any doubt, we can include the child in the cleaning which follows after the cooking. Of course, the cleaning tasks we give, should be according to child's age and capabilities. In this way, we create habits and skills for maintaining tidiness and order at home.
We can make up creative ways to serve the dish or set the table; we can take some photos of the cooked dish for our records. There are plenty of additional things we can do around the topic of cooking, which can engage and inspire us to spend more time and be active together.
Cooking with a child partner can be honestly beneficial, fun and enriching experience for all participants. The time we spend together is an invaluable gift.
We encourage you to add more ideas and suggestions to this article and also to share your experience.
Author: Emillia Ilieva
Botanica Life Foundation