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3 Benefits of Cooking with Kids

Apr 30, 2020

3 Benefits of Cooking with Kids

  1. Cooking with kids can help to build a positive relationship with food and may reduce picky eating, as it gives your child an opportunity to learn about new foods through their senses. Kids learn to eat by looking, touching, smelling, and eventually tasting when they are ready.
  2. Cooking with your child provides an opportunity to connect, hang-out together, talk, and laugh. It’s a chance to bond, have fun, and share culture.
  3. Language and learning opportunities are plentiful during cooking. Cooking involves language, literacy, math, and science. It’s a fun way to work on counting, naming, sorting, and learning to follow directions. Cooking provides so many teachable moments and can help with cognitive and fine-motor development.

3 Rules (ok..ok…Guidelines) when Cooking with Kids

  1. Have fun and try not to stress. The goal isn’t to prepare a perfect meal...the goal is to learn about food together. You could even create your own new made-up recipe.
  2. Don’t prompt or pressure your child to eat or “try” the foods during cooking. Research shows that pressuring kids to eat actually reduces their willingness to try the food.
  3. Try not to be disappointed if your child doesn’t eat the final product…learning to eat takes time and repetition. Studies show that repeated exposure to foods increases a child’s acceptance.

3 Tips for Cooking Set-Up

  1. Find a safe way to position your child at the counter or the table. There are many great options for “learning towers” or stepping stools so kids can get right up to the counter. This set-up will vary depending upon your child’s age, developmental level, and motor skills. If your child has a disability, you could use their existing seating equipment and tray during cooking activities or work on the floor together.
  2. Prepare your bowls, child-safe cooking utensils, and foods ahead of time. It will make things easier for both of you if everything is ready to go. You will maintain your child’s attention if you eliminate the “preparation” stage, which may be hard for little ones to wait through if they are eager to start playing chef.
  3. I always suggest that parents put music on during cooking and mealtimes. Music can be both uplifting and calming. There are no rules about which music to play, it could be something your child likes (e.g., The Wiggles: Fruit Salad) or something YOU like (e.g., Bob Marley: Three Little Birds “Don’t worry about a thing… ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright.”).  FYI: This is my go-to song when I’m stressed ;)

Cooking Jobs for Little Chefs

The cooking tasks you assign to your child will vary depending upon their age and developmental level. I tend not to list tasks by age, as many I children I work with have language, sensory, and motor delays, which place them at developmental level that does not match their age.  I simply suggest choosing any tasks from the list below that you feel your child is capable of doing. You are the expert as far as your child’s capabilities.

  • Washing fruits and vegetables in the sink
  • Stirring or sprinkling (sing “Sprinkle, sprinkle, Little Star”)
  • Shaking (sing “Shake, shake, shake it up. I can shake it up! Tune: Row your boat)
  • Pouring
  • Scooping
  • Smelling foods as they are added to the recipe
  • Spreading (use silicone basting brushes and let your little one paint on sauces)
  • Chopping soft foods like fruit, tofu, cheese, egg (playdough knives work great)
  • Cutting shapes with cookie cutters
  • Counting, measuring, and weighing (teachable math moment!)
  • Sieving and straining
  • Kneading, squishing, and mashing
  • Rolling
  • Naming the ingredients (teachable language development moment!)
  • Decorating
  • Assembling foods
  • Setting timers
  • Reading the recipe (teachable reading moment!)
  • Watching food cook (safely) through the oven door
  • Tidying-up

As you can see, the list above offers many speech, language, and learning opportunities. Cooking gives you an opportunity to double-up on your child’s other goals including math, reading, fine motor, and sensory development. Cooking provides an opportunity to work on feeding goals, picky eating, and learning/developmental goals all at the same time!

Kid-Friendly Recipe Ideas (Try giving your recipe a funny name!)

  • Cowabunga Cookies
  • Magnificent Muffins
  • Egg-in-the-hole (using different shape cutters)
  • Poppin’ Pancakes
  • Funky French toast (with whipped cream and fruit)
  • Pretty Pizza or pizza buns (using leftover bread make funny pizza faces)
  • Cupcakes, cakes, cake pops with funny faces on top
  • Stone Soup (link to the children’s book)
  • Playful Pasta and sauce (add any leftovers from the fridge)
  • Rainbow stir-fry
  • Silly-wiggly noodles
  • Mini sandwiches (cut into shapes with cookie cutters)
  • Crazy-coloured Fruit kabobs (sing Wiggles Fruit Salad song)
  • Super-Duper Smoothies
  • Terrific Tacos

Some little ones might not be ready to cook just yet due to sensory overload. If so, they can just watch you cook. You can talk about what you are doing so they can just look and learn. You can give your child their own empty pot and spoon and they can pretend to add their invisible ingredients to their own secret recipe. Remember to play along and tell them how good their recipe smells! With time and repeated exposure to foods your little chef may become more willing to touch foods and in time progress toward eating.

Happy cooking!

Best, Nicola.



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