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Cooking with your children can be beneficial for kids of all ages. You don’t have to be preparing lavish meals for dinner guests to have an excuse to ask for their help in the kitchen. Whether it’s sprucing up leftovers or using pre-prepared meals, cooking east to prepare meals and more difficult recipes alongside your children provides learning opportunities and strengthens communication family members. And, of course, nothing enriches the bond between parent and child like a good meal cooked together. Here’s how you can maximize the benefits of family kitchen time.
What You’ll Need
You will want to stock up your pantry and refrigerator with the kinds of meals that are easy to make and will help build their confidence. Graduate to the trickier recipes slowly. And if those options happen to be on the healthier side, so much the better. This can include fresh mixes likedips, salsas and drink recipes, which are cheaper in bulk. You’ll also want a supply of broths and broth powder. Nothing is easier and more delicious while using up last night’s leftovers than making homemade soups. This also will aid in the preparation of more ambitious meals with soup bases, like Braised Saitan and Toasted Pilaf.
Get them Excited about Cooking!
Make your kids feel welcome in the kitchen with items such as a step-stool so they can reach the sink and stove and a kid-sized apron. Let them feel important when you are choosing the right spices for your meal by asking questions like “Cumin…or…garlic?” (This also a neat way to trick them into eating their vegetables if they have a say in how they’re prepared) Take advantage of children’s innate creativity by experimenting with presentation. Different shaped cookies, colorful salads and seasonal landscapes and scenes made of pasta can engage kids more than their Xbox or Playstation. Mostly importantly, let your kids see you having fun in the kitchen and laugh them them while you boil macaroni and giggle while you beat eggs. Studies have shown that children will be more receptive to new concepts and learn determination if the adults in their life model this behavior for them. This will help build the impression that the kitchen is a imaginative and fun place.
The Kitchen’s Teachable Moments
Ask any educator and they will tell you kids learn in organic and focused settings rather than during chores and lifeless exercises. Nothing is more rife for natural teachable moments than getting a tricky recipesjust right.
You can read recipes with your younger children or you have have the older kids read it aloud to you as they practice their pronunciation and comprehension skills. Beats answering multiple-choice spelling tests.
Talk to any math teacher and they will tell you fractions, percents and long division are the source of many classroom headaches. Did you know it’s easier to distinguish a 1/3 cup from a 1/2 cup when you use actual measuring cups in the kitchen? Fine-tuning the details of a good recipe help build their measuring, multiplication and division skill as they add different ingredients and prepare serving sizes for your family.
Know what more fun than “Use the word ‘Fahrenheit’ in a sentence”? A meat thermometer in a roast! Figuring out what the difference between “caramelize” and “liquify” is! The kitchen is a treasure trove of new words and new contexts to use them in. How many kids in middle school can use the word “al dente” when talking about getting something just right? As they learn what certain kitchen cutlery is, their word power will grow exponentially.
When kids learn to follow the recipe to make a meal perfectly, they will have practiced a valuable skill in taking abstract instructions and turning them into powerful results. When they start tweaking certain ingredients to their liking, their improvisational skills and ability to experiment will only flourish.
How many parent have kids who think money actually grows on trees? Using leftovers and spending money on ingredients carefully can be the value of learning how not to waste anything. This also allows you to teach them how to recycle by setting an example yourself when you use plastic tupperware rather than stacks of paper plates.
Have the other family member depend on you and your child to come together to make a meal that will dazzle everyone at the supper table. The feeling of satisfaction they will get from an appreciative diner goes well along with knowing how to keep your kitchen clean as you cook. Mise en place is not a valuable concept only for French chefs.