When you share a love of cooking, you teach your child organizational skills, cooperation, and how to accomplish tasks in a sequential manner. Pride in a well-cooked meal increases a child's self esteem. In addition, cooking teaches children a value that is rarely seen in this high-tech, drive-through, on-demand world: Patience.
Other benefits for children who spend regular time in the kitchen are improved math skills and a keener perspective of the nature of food, which leads to a life-long awareness of better nutrition.
Developmentally, each child progresses at his or her own pace, but in general, as soon as a child can grasp a spoon, he or she can get involved in the goings-on in the kitchen. Toddlers can stir ingredients and drop a spoonful of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Older children can crack eggs, measure ingredients, and operate the stand mixer. Pre-teens can sauté and fry, use the oven, and perform simple knife skills. And children of every age can help with clean-up.
Not sure where to start? Try easy-to-prepare foods like salads and simple desserts, and work your way up to more complex meals. Suggest a child's favorite food as a starting point. "Parents Magazine" has a list of “kid-friendly food” on its website. Click here to get some ideas.
One last thought: Cooking is a learning process, so it’s okay if things don’t always turn out perfectly. The important thing is to spend some quality time with your child, showing your love in a special way. The food will most likely be consumed quickly, but the memories will last a lifetime.
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