Cooking with children
Children love to be a part of the action and help the big people in their lives, especially in the kitchen. It’s never too early to involve your children in meal preparation. It may be a little messy, but there are endless opportunities for learning and fun! An added bonus might be that your child is more likely to try different foods.
Cooking often involves science and numeracy concepts such as weight, volume, heating, freezing and mixing. Cooking together is a simple, hands-on way of introducing and explaining some of these complex concepts to your child. It’s like a mini science experiment in the kitchen.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Talk to your child about the safety rules of the kitchen.
For very young children or babies, give them a running commentary about what you are doing. For example, “I’m going to whisk the eggs now”, or “I’m frying some onions. Can you hear them sizzling?”
Get your child to help you unpack groceries. You can talk about where the food has come from, how you are going to cook it or even how it’s made. For example, cheese and yoghurt are made from milk.
Share a recipe with your child and write a shopping list of what you need.
Read a recipe aloud to your child and ask them to help you gather the ingredients - “We need two bananas, can you find them for me?”
Try touching unusual textured fruit and vegetables with your child. Talk about how they feel, are they spiky, rough or smooth?
Ask your little one to help measure ingredients. Point out the numbers on the cup or count out how many tablespoons you need. You can also talk about the different ways ingredients are measured.
An important part of cooking is the clean-up. Even though it might take longer, involve your child in this process and reassure yourself that the extra work in including them will pay off in language and learning later on!
Remember, you don’t have to do all of these ideas each time you cook! Sometimes dinner has to happen in 15 minutes and that’s ok. When you have the chance to share some kitchen time, you’re giving your child the gift of two important life skills: language and cooking. Maybe, one day, they’ll be making meals for you!
Here are some books to read or get you started cooking in the kitchen with your little one:
- Cat’s Cookbook by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler
- Pizza! by Lotta Nieminen
- Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
- Little Helpers Cookbook by Heather Wish Staller
- The Best-Ever Step-by-Step Kid’s First Cookbook by Nancy McDougall
- The Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Karmel
- Busy Little Hands: Food Play by Amy Palanjian