It was a long time ago, but I still remember the little chair we had for our children to stand on so they could reach the bench. Sometimes I would try and sneak into the kitchen to prepare a meal or make some muffins quietly on my own. I could function far more efficiently and get the job done swiftly if I was alone. But I would often hear the chair being dragged and scraped along the floor as soon as my kids had figured out I was in the kitchen.
- The five languages of apology
- How to talk to your kids about: Making mistakes and failure
- What children need to feel secure
What do our kids get to learn?
Getting children involved in cooking is great for them, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. Okay, yes, it will probably be stressful. It’s highly likely that there will be a big mess, because young children spill things and older children love to invent. There are sharp objects and heat in the mix, so definitely an element of risk too. Your children might lose interest before the job is done. You’ll probably also find that they don’t tidy up that well, or they disappear once the eating is done but the cleaning isn’t.
But even with all of that in mind, maybe I can convince you to give it a go – or even delegate the job to someone in your extended family that loves it. The kitchen is the perfect place to collaborate with your children – to work with them to whip up a creation together. There are just so many benefits for inviting children into the kitchen – making it a possibility in your home is totally worth it! Here’s why.
Science, language and math
Cooking is like setting up a science and language lab in your kitchen. There’s choosing a recipe, getting the ingredients together and then measuring things with cups, spoons and scales. Math comes in to play too because you’re counting things out, estimating and multiplying as the ingredients transform into a dish to feed the family. Finally, you get to watch what happens when something is cooked – which ideally means there will be a nice smell and some fun as you taste and share your bounty.
What is also happening is invaluable togetherness. Doing life together in the same room and collaborating with a shared vision (that exciting recipe) is simply good value. You’re connecting, talking, smiling and enjoying your child’s enthusiasm, watching their early attempts at breaking eggs open or admiring their ability to set up the cake mixer all on their own.
Self-esteem is built
You are finding moments to delight in your children, even as you wipe the floor and fridge again and again. Your child feels a sense of importance because you’ve let them try something for the first time. As you quietly pick out the eggshell that got dropped in the batter, you’re doing an amazing job of building your child’s self-esteem.
The long game
Before you know it, your preschooler will have grown into a 10 year old who can do their own research and pick a good recipe. They can build a menu with you, and make up a shopping list, working out what you already have and what is needed. From there, your 10 year old will become a 15 year old who can take responsibility for preparing one meal a week on the family roster. Just imagine being able to look back and credit it to these days – the days you held your tongue, welcomed the chair dragged into the kitchen, invited them to create together with you and showed them how to do it – one little step at a time.
Not everyone will become a great cook and that is just fine. This is more about making the most of an opportunity and harnessing a moment to connect with your kids. It’s making memories and letting them be part of a team. It’s seeing their potential and letting them have a go. It is up-skilling them and showing them how. It’s also letting them teach you things too.
Looking back – I’m glad I shared the kitchen with our children. Something so valuable happened in that time. I am proud that both my son and daughter can cook – this result was worth me slowing down and being put out by my junior sous chefs, all those years ago. I love that they now have the confidence to be creative in the kitchen too. If I had my time again, I would run our family kitchen in exactly the same way. But in lieu of that, I get to have my grandchildren helping me now.