We are placing more emphasis on food in our families these days. We want to know where our food is coming from, we know we should be able to pronounce each ingredient on the nutritional label and frozen dinners just don't cut it anymore. More parents are realizing that teaching their kids to cook helps prepare them for the future.
Over the holidays, I spent time with my 6-year-old nephew Mikah, who lives in New Zealand. The food is a bit different there (they don't have yellow cheese, tomatoes are to-mah-toes, etc.) so it's interesting to see how his food habits have changed each year. Mikah has come a long way since the days of his color boycotts ("I will not eat anything that's red, Auntie Andrea"), but he's still what I would describe as a picky eater. However, my family got him to try as many new things as possible. In fact, his New Year resolution (decided by my sister-in-law, of course) was to try a new food each day. By the end of the visit, he was peeling crawfish like an old Cajun pro.
Mikah likes to help in the kitchen, so I enlisted his assistance in prep for the Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes being served for Christmas dinner. I thought he would tire quickly of the boring task of peeling potatoes, but he hung in there, peeling quite a few potatoes without leaving a speck of brown on them.
This got me thinking about how much easier it can be to teach children about food if we involve them in the cooking process.
There are a lot of advantages to this:
1. Do the Math: Cooking is a fun way to crunch numbers, whether it's doubling a recipe or learning how to be precise with measurements. Plus, it shows your child that yes, you really will need to do math in real life.
2. Rad Reading: Following a recipe requires reading and it's a fun way to get your child to learn new words. Kids are sponges when it comes to learning vocabulary.
3. Put Aside Pickiness: Children are more likely to eat food they have had a hand in preparing. So expose them to new foods and get them to try new things. If they helped prep the veggies for the stir fry, they may not pick them all out of the dish anymore.
4. Safety First: Some parents worry that cooking can be dangerous. But with proper supervision and careful instruction, a child of 7 should be perfectly capable of using the stove and knives.
5. Appreciation: Teaching your kids where their food comes from will give them an appreciation for nature that will last long into adulthood.
6. Nutritional Power: Teaching your kids how to cook gives them a tool to take control of their own health. Eating well is an important foundation that should be taught at a young age for a lifetime of healthy habits.
7. Bonding Time: Cooking together as a family is a great way to spend quality time together, plus you can turn menu planning into a fun game.
8. Clean Up: Don't forget that cleaning is part of cooking, so it should be included in your lessons. It may not be the fun part for your child, but they'll learn responsibility and they'll be a better roommate someday.
At The Chopping Block, we offer hands on kids and teen classes at our Lincoln Square location every weekend. Each class includes a lesson on ingredients, sanitation, organization and cooking techniques. We have a whole new lineup of classes for spring and summer, so check them out today and get your kids cooking!
What dishes do you cook at home with your kids? Share your kid-friendly ideas here in the comments.