Cooking is such a wonderful activity to do with your little ones. It’s lots of fun, educational, and of course – super delicious too!
Cooking can be done with children of all ages. You can tailor your child’s cooking experience to suit their age and level, and as they grow older, you can scaffold on the skills they’ve already learnt. Your baby might enjoy tasting and touching pieces of cut up fruit and veggies while you cook, toddlers love mixing the ingredients, primary school children can independently work on a simple recipe, and by the time your children are teenagers – they can cook dinner for the family while you relax and put your feet up with a cup of tea and a magazine…ahhh the ultimate goal…
We LOVE cooking with children here at Imagine Blog. Here’s some of the reasons why:
It’s lots of fun and a great bonding experience that creates wonderful memories
Cooking is FUN! It’s perfect for spending time with your little one, as you teach them new skills whilst creating wonderful memories together. If you’ve got some time up your sleeve you can turn it into an entire experience together – from selecting a recipe, making a shopping list, shopping for ingredients, and then cooking your delicious meal. Check out our blog post, Five Awesome Activities for Children to do at Home, for our Pizza Parlour Role Play activity, that will get your little one involved in preparing a meal for the family in a super fun way!
Even if you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table, or your little one is not quite old enough to join in with what you’re making – you can involve them in the experience by having them sit in the kitchen and talking to them about what you’re doing. They could even complete a cooking-related activity at the same time, like playing with some pots and a spoon while you cook, or enjoying a sensory experience using a measuring cup and a bowl of rice. Even just feeling and tasting chopped up pieces of veggies or fruit that you are cooking with involves your little one, and will be lots of fun for them.
It’s an excellent educational experience
Did you know cooking is also a fantastic educational activity to do at home too? Cooking uses mathematical skills, science skills, and language skills.
From counting – “how many eggs are we breaking in the bowl? One, two, three!” to measuring out the ingredients – cooking involves a lot of simple maths skills.
Talk about the science behind what is happening as you cook with your child. “What happens if we mix these ingredients together?” Why does the cake mixture go from liquid to solid when we heat it in the oven?” These are great scientific experiments for your child to engage with as you cook together.
As you cook, your child will be absorbing information and adding new words into their vocabulary throughout the process. That’s why it’s so important to communicate throughout the cook and expand on what you are doing at each step. “We’re going to cut the apple into slices now using the knife. Can you tell me what colour the apple is? That’s right! The apple is green!”
It helps develop fine motor skills and coordination
As your child cooks, they are also developing their fine motor skills and coordination. Pouring, picking up ingredients, rolling out dough. Even something as simple as taking a turn to stir ingredients in a bowl helps develop their fine motor skills, as they are use the smaller muscles in their fingers, hands, and wrists to grip and stir.
It gives children a sense of pride, independence, and accomplishment
Another big PLUS is cooking gives your child a real sense of pride, as they’ve helped create a delicious meal to enjoy. Children will be more likely to eat a meal they’ve been involved in creating, because they’ll feel a connection to the meal and what they’ve accomplished.
Cooking is great for fostering a sense of independence and confidence too. Ensure you give your child the opportunity to practice their independence, for example letting them pour the ingredients into the measuring cup rather than just giving them the measured out amount to add. Children are really capable learners, and showing faith in them to complete the task will really encourage them to explore their independence and capabilities even further.
Even if the cook doesn’t go as planned (hello slightly ‘crisp’ and sunken cake – we’ve all been there…), cooking failures are still a great opportunity to talk about what went wrong and how we can fix it next time.
It encourages children to try new food and tastes
Is your child a fussy eater who doesn’t like to try new food? Involving them in the cooking process allows them to become familiar with new foods and ingredients, including the textures, smells, and how you are preparing them. Before you know it broccoli will be their favourite food…
You could even choose a new cuisine or food to cook together, and make it a a really special activity you do regularly to encourage your little ones to explore different tastes and textures.
It’s a super delicious activity!
Last, but definitely not least, is the fact that the end result of cooking is a super delicious meal/cake/slice/food item that you and your little one are going to enjoy. While you’re cooking, stop to taste the ingredients or mixture with your child (as long as the ingredients are safe to eat uncooked). Tasting as you go brings so much enjoyment and connection to the cooking task they are doing, and when you’ve finished cooking your little one will feel so much satisfaction when they sample the yummy meal they helped create.
We asked Imagine Childcare Southport parent and Ridgeway Group owner, Chef Daniel Ridgeway, his top tips for making a meal with your child:
- Let your child feel involved in the cook right from the very beginning. Have them help select what you’ll be making. You could look through recipe books or recipes online together, and you might even like to watch your favourite cooking shows with your little one.
- Have them help you write the shopping list. Then when you head to the shops, they can help you collect the ingredients from the list – this is a great opportunity for education too!
- Depending on your child’s age, they may want to be involved for the whole experience or just part of it. You know your child best and what they are capable of, but even if they are very young there are so many tasks they can be involved in! They may enjoy measuring out the ingredients, stirring ingredients together, or even helping you collect the ingredients from the cupboard.
- There is a much higher chance that they will eat the dish if they have had involvement in creating it, as they will feel pride in the end result and what they have accomplished.
- Take photos throughout the cook as memories you will both cherish. They can even proudly show all their friends at school what they accomplished!