Having your child as your kitchen helper can make kneading dough or mashing potatoes a little more fun, but doing kitchen duty can also be a learning experience for kids. Cooking lessons -- whether you’re dishing them out at your own stove or signing your child up for a kid-friendly cooking class -- can have big benefits for your child.
Boosting Math and Science Skills
Cooking lessons let kids practice basic math skills like counting, weighing, measuring and estimating with every recipe. Keeping track of cooking times requires kids to put their time-reading abilities to the test in a practical way and helps them better understand sequencing, the idea that events occur in a logical order. For even more mathematical power, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning recommends encouraging kids to make charts and graphs to keep track of favorite foods or plan weekly menus. Cooking lessons also teach kids science in a hands-on way as they discover that yeast makes dough rise, salt affects the way ice melts and heat changes the way food looks and tastes.
Fostering Social Skills
Communication is an important part of cooking with another person. Kids have to be able to read, understand and explain recipe steps, but they must also take turns, work together and be ready to problem-solve any issues that pop up, explains the Penn State Cooperative Extension. At home, cooking classes provide inspiration for meaningful conversations: Tell your child stories about her great-grandmother as you mix up the secret cinnamon mixture for her famous snickerdoodles or tell the story of your picky eating middle school days as you help your child make a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Learning Good Eating Habits
As many as 87 percent of California fourth- through eighth-graders said they were responsible for making some of their meals, according to the California Department of Education. If your child’s kitchen repertoire consists of opening ready-made snacks, she could fall into a lifetime habit of convenience foods consumption. Cooking classes can give kids the confidence and curiosity to get creative in the kitchen, building a lifelong habit of healthier eating. To maximize these benefits, look for a cooking class that emphasizes nutrition education along with cooking skills.
Building Responsibility and Independence
When kids learn how to make a pizza or cook spaghetti, they’re also learning how to follow directions, explains KidsHealth, an online parenting and health information resource. Learning how to safely use kitchen equipment, cleaning up messes as they happen and washing and putting away kitchen gear when their cooking project is done fosters responsibility, boosts confidence and prepares kids for the time when they’ll be in charge of making their own meals.