Teaching a child to cook is an investment that requires some time and patience on your part, but it can pay off in a multitude of ways. When children learn to cook, they learn much more than how to measure the ingredients that the recipe calls for. The skills learned in the kitchen benefit children in many other aspects of their life and their overall development.
Children who learn to cook are able to prepare snacks and meals for themselves. This makes them less reliant on Mom and Dad to feed them when they’re hungry. It also means they are less likely to reach for unhealthy, ready-to-eat prepared foods or fast foods. Cooking for themselves and others also gives kids a sense of achievement and boosts their confidence, says KidsHealth.org.
Preparing even a simple meal improves kids’ cooking skills and reinforces a variety of other skills. Recipes teach them how to follow directions and promote reading skills, as do labels. Measuring wet and dry ingredients and counting quantities -- such as eggs or crackers -- gives kids practice in math skills. Cooking even promotes comprehension in science, suggests CulinarySchools.org. The simple acts of boiling water or chilling gelatin from a liquid to solid state demonstrate the nature of chemical reactions.
Parents who teach children how to cook also teach them how to establish healthy eating habits. Preschool-age children are more likely to try a new dish that they’ve helped to create, as opposed a plate of steamed vegetables that Mom just plopped down in front of them. Planning menus and discussing recipe ingredients also provides the opportunity to talk with a child about nutrition. Fresh ingredients are healthier than prepared or fast foods, and teaching kids how to incorporate them into different meals promotes healthy eating.
When children learn how to cook, they learn how to be responsible, including how to safely handle kitchen equipment, such as knives. They also learn how to handle potential contaminants such as raw meats, and potential hazards such open flames and raw eggs. Children who learn to cook also learn the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves properly.