Benefits of Cooking with Kids and How Your Child Can Help

Benefits of Cooking with Kids and How Your Child Can Help

Cooking with children? Some parents would view the kitchen as a child-free area in the house, especially when they are preparing a meal, while others love including their child in food preparation. Though allowing children to play a part in “kitchen work” is a demanding task that requires lots of patience, these activities are extremely worth the effort and longer cleaning process thereafter!

Benefits of Cooking With Kids

Occupies Them

Rather than allowing them to swipe and tap tablets and phones to distract them, how about getting them to pour, stir, and measure? You may be surprised how much children love to help out in the kitchen.

Small tasks like getting them to assembling a sandwich, removing baby carrots out of the bag and into a bowl, or washing fruits for snacks would keep children occupied while you cook. Rather than leaving them out in the living room to roam and get into trouble, asking them to help out in the kitchen also means that they stay close by and you can keep an eye on them!

Family Bonding Time

Nurturing strong familial bonds is something that is essential to inculcate in your child while they are still young. Spending time to create a dish at home is a great way to spend quality time as a family. Being in the same space encourages more interaction as you can talk about the ingredients and marvel at how good the end-product is!

These precious times spent in the kitchen is definitely going to be something that your child will still fondly remember as they grow older.

No More Picky-Eaters

Does your child absolutely hate vegetables and refuses to touch them unless you mince it up and “hide” them in their food?

Did you know that children who help out in the kitchen are less likely to be picky eaters and they are more likely to enjoy consuming a larger range of foods (especially vegetables)?

While they get hands-on with the preparation of food, they are more likely to taste them as they go along. This grants them more opportunities to try out new foods and learn about healthy and nutritious food.  Also, because they had a part to play in helping to put the dish together, they are more likely to actually eat the dish. Picky eaters who help out more in the kitchen will become more excited around food and you will start to see their palates grow!

When children start being around the preparation of food at a young age, it can spark a lifelong love of cooking and of food.

Gain Essential Skills

There are numerous important developmental skills required as children help in cooking and baking. Preparing food itself is a great sensory activity as they feel and touch different textures of food. For little ones, pouring and scooping are essential skills that grants them opportunities to develop hand-eye coordination. For slightly older children, measuring out the various ingredients when baking a cake will help them in numeracy and Mathematical skills as they grow older.

Science concepts can also be taught in the kitchen as raw ingredients like how prawns change its colour when it is cooked and how potatoes become soft when it is boiled. Through these real-life hands-on experiences, children will be able to remember these concepts more vividly.

While plating the prepared food, they are empowered with the responsibility to make decisions. They can also display their creativity as they form shapes or a smiley face with the food. Furthermore, seeing how the entire dish is put together and how it actually tastes great will help children to gain self-confidence.

Cooking and Baking are amazing sensory experiences for children of all ages – even infants! By being in the kitchen, children will be exposed to many new textures through hands-on preparation, and experience new smells as the food cooks!

How Can Children Help In Cooking and Baking?

Ready and convinced to let your child help out in cooking and baking? Here are some ways you can start to get kids to help out in the kitchen, with activities tailored to the different age range and abilities. Since all kids develop at different rates, your child may be ready to complete a task earlier or later than suggested and feel free to tweak them!

Infant (0 to 17 months)

At this age, the best way to allow your baby to participate in the kitchen is simply to let them observe you cooking and preparing food. You can bring them into a safe area in the kitchen, put them on a highchair, and give them a similar tool you are using. For instance, if you are mixing up some batter with a wooden spoon, you could give them a spare one and talk to them about what you are doing. Talking with infants help build a strong foundation for language and communication skills and it helps them to make sense of what they are actually seeing you do!

As you move from one step to another, they can practise their visual tracking skills. You could also let them smell and touch the ingredients, making cooking and baking an exciting activity that they can watch and experience!

Pre-Nursery / Playgroup (18 months to 2 years)

Children at this age like to play with ingredients and will be able to help you with simple tasks. You can get them to pour dry and liquid ingredients into a bowl, mix chopped vegetables, mash a banana, rinse fruits and vegetables, tear leafy vegetables into pieces or sprinkle salt on a dish.

Although they will still need lots of supervision, instruction and help at this age, your little one will be extremely enthusiastic about helping you in the kitchen!

Nursery (2 to 4 years)

The tasks that this age group can do is quite similar to the previous ones, but this time, you can further challenge them by getting them to help in comparing and contrasting such as when plating, you could ask them if the amount of rice is the same in each bowl or give them tasks like measuring how liquids or spices.

To work on their fine motor skills, get them to transfer ingredients using different tools or peel a cooled hard-boiled egg. They will need to concentrate and use the little muscles in their fingers to complete these tasks.

Kindergarten (4 to 6 years)

Older children can be given more responsibilities in the kitchen. During breakfast, they should be able to spread butter and jam onto bread. You can also get them to count and give out food such as, put 5 cherry tomatoes into every bowl or place 3 cube pineapples on the pizza. Allow them to develop decision-making and planning skills by entrusting them to decide the menu for the family or even something as simple as which fruit jam they should use. Preschoolers can be granted the creative space to set up the dinner table using light-weight cutlery and plates.

With supervision, they can also cut soft foods using plastic knives and crack eggs into a bowl. To further challenge them, get them to cut ingredients with more specific instructions such as cutting the banana into 5 equal parts.

Busy BakerTM (Culinary Arts) Enrichment @ Mulberry Learning

At Mulberry Learning, children are given opportunities to create foods on their own. Children can engage in sensory activities and gain hands-on practical experiences. By getting them involved in cooking and baking, they develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and learn the early concepts of Mathematics and Science; all while having fun! Together with their peers, they may be assembling a pizza, stirring batter for a cupcake, or decorating a ready-made cake!

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Established in 2006, Mulberry Learning is an award-winning Reggio-inspired preschool with 11 locations around Singapore. Mulberry Learning is the world’s first and only preschool network certified by the USA for the Habits of MindTM framework, and its curriculum has been voted as “Singapore’s Best Holistic Learning Programme” for 3 years running by leading parenting publications.

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