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Nutritional Health|28 June 2022

Importance & benefits of kids’ participation in kitchen

Written by Pragya Lodha
The Mumbai Program Director & Clinical Psychologist at The MINDS Foundation. Honorary Associate Editor for the Indian Journal of Mental Health with over 100 National and International publications

Preparing a meal together with your kids is a special activity that is not usually focused upon or encouraged by the parents. According to research, children’s participation in the process of cooking has many long-term benefits. Hence, too many cooks in the kitchen may not be a thing when it comes to involving your little ones in the kitchen. Here’s why:

  • Allows quality family time –

The kitchen can be a great space to spend time with your child, bond with them, and create new memories. Cooking together may also help your child realize the value of including quality family time in their daily routine of school, work, and extracurricular activities. 

  • Promotes cooperation by working together as a team –

Cooking together helps cultivate the habit of coordinating, communicating, and cooperating effectively. Children get the opportunity to learn the value of teamwork to accomplish tasks. They also learn the importance of asking for help in times of need. 

  • Inculcates responsibility –

Having a role in the kitchen helps children to be self-reliant. They also feel more involved in the home environment when given the responsibility of cooking a delicious meal. Learning these skills when they are younger will give them the ability to take care of themselves when they are older. 

  • Teaches time management –

Cooking is a unique process that teaches children to manage their time and efforts effectively. Since you often have to manage multiple tasks at once, it forces their brains to think logically about how to time their tasks, and these skills are transferable to other parts of life. It also helps them learn patience in terms of getting things right and completing tasks. 

  • Develops healthy habits –

You get a chance to convey the importance of health and hygiene while cooking with their children. As a result, children become aware of helpful tips and suggestions for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and willingly seek to make healthy food choices. Knowing how to cook simple dishes will enable them to avoid ordering unhealthy food delivery as they grow older and busier in life. 

  • Increases self-awareness and self-esteem –

Seeing one’s own cooked meal ready on a plate and being appreciated for it boosts a child’s morale. It gives them a chance to be proud of making a tangible contribution to their family, and gives others in the family an opportunity to celebrate their efforts and cooking. This is also a great opportunity for bonding in the family. 

  • Builds confidence –

Cooking is a skill and there is a lot to learn in the process. Creating a meal from scratch sparks a sense of accomplishment in children that boosts their confidence and makes them feel capable of accomplishing skillful tasks. This can translate into new tasks or skills they will inevitably get in school, making them more likely to face challenges with a more positive and confident attitude. 

P.S. It doesn’t have to be a complicated dish. You can explore many options that come under the category of fireless cooking for kids.

  • Provides practical learning experience – 

Fireless cooking for kids offers a safe space to make mistakes and deal with urgent situations. It encourages them to follow directions, be on their feet, learn to organize, etc. which are some important life skills that are essential to prepare them for the outside world. 

  • Builds knowledge and vocabulary – 

Development of your child’s mathematical skills (e.g. accurate measurements), comprehension and reading skills (e.g. reading a recipe), new concepts and words, etc. takes place during meal preparation. Cooking is a good way to reinforce all their new learning from school. 

  • Sparks creativity and imagination – 

Cooking can help children practice their creativity and use their imagination to experiment with food and create new dishes. It is a great way for them to express themselves by creating something of their own. Try creating foods that have visual appeal, like frosting a cake in a fun way, or serving food in fun shapes. It is a great way to initiate fireless cooking for kids.

Now that we know some of the many benefits of cooking together with your child, what can your child do in the kitchen that is safe for them? We recommend focusing on fireless cooking for kids to protect them from any potential hazards. The following are some of the child-friendly, fireless activities that can be allotted to them in the kitchen

  • Washing vegetables
  • Pouring and mixing ingredients into a bowl. 
  • Spreading butter, jam, sauces, etc. 
  • Setting a timer and being mindful of the time limit.
  • Measuring and leveling dry ingredients. 
  • Greasing a baking pan.
  • Helping put groceries away.
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables that do not require a knife. 
  • Rinsing dishes that are not too heavy.
  • Juicing lemons, oranges, etc.
  • Forming patties, cutlets, etc. 
  • Kneading the dough.
  • Setting the table.

While assigning a task to your child, it is important to make sure that it is age appropriate and safe. Preparing dishes that use fireless cooking methods is the best way to introduce your child to cooking, and avoiding other risky cooking appliances is advisable. Some of the other things that you must be mindful of and be patient with are:

  • Cooking together may lead to a mess.
  • You may have to cook simple meals.
  • You must keep an eye on everything they are doing in the kitchen.
  • You may not have alone time to de-stress.
  • It may take more time and effort to prepare a meal. 

Cooking may not necessarily interest every child, especially boys due to gender norms reinforced by our culture. However, cooking is an essential life skill that everyone can and must cultivate. Therefore, you must encourage your child, irrespective of their gender, to explore the different ways in which they can contribute to the kitchen. This can be done by:

  • Incorporating counting or vocabulary games while cooking with your child to make it fun and engaging for them.
  • Encouraging your child to accompany you for grocery shopping or preparing the grocery list together.
  • Forming new food traditions or sharing your old ones with your child.
  • Choosing and planning recipes and ingredients together.
  • Assigning kitchen duties.
  • Promoting cooking as an extracurricular activity, not a household chore.
  • Attending a cooking class together and then applying what you learned in your own kitchen.
  • Watching cooking shows together.
  • Using fun cooking utensils and tools.
  • Appreciating and rewarding your child for their help. 

When approached with patience and appreciation, cooking a meal together with your child can be a fun and fulfilling experience. Although some adjustments need to be made in the kitchen, such as using fireless cooking methods, the value of this activity cannot be overstated. We highly recommend you try cooking with your child as a way to teach them new skills, responsibility, appreciation for their food, and improve your quality time together.

References:

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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