Food provides nourishment to the body, just like how meditation nourishes a mind. Food can be therapeutic and healing to a person with its wonderful aroma and taste. Cooking with children can be fun, healing, and a great bonding experience as well. So, can there be a better way to prepare food at home than with our beloved children?
Children are being introduced to the art of cooking as early as three years now. Peter Selg, a professor of medicine, describes how children experience the world through his book – The child as a sense organ. He says that a child’s early experience of the world begins as a sensory relationship to the environment in which the child interacts. It means that the sense of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and the taste gets enhanced in the early childhood days to a great extent.
While children are engaged in the kitchen, their sense of smell is enhanced. They see the riot of colors and can smell the aroma from the food being prepared right in front of them. The Waldorf schools (especially the Kindergarten section) encourage cooking in their curriculum because of this reason. Cooking is a part of their daily/ weekly rhythm. Apart from this one crucial factor, there are other benefits of cooking along with children, they are :
ENHANCES FINE MOTOR SKILLS
Kindergarten emphasizes developing the fine motor skills of a child. These are activities in which one uses the small muscles in the hands and wrists to make precise movements. Fine motor skills help in strengthening the muscles to write and to perform other tasks later in life. The simple act of peeling peas, husking corn, rolling dough, peeling garlic, kneading, peeling a carrot, filling up bottles, or opening a jar of jam helps strengthen the delicate muscles in hands. Which in turn helps to enhance fine motor skills. These tasks may seem simple to adults, but to a toddler, these are milestones in development.
EXPLORING NEW TEXTURES, SHAPES, AND COLOURS
Children learn about various textures, shapes, and colors from the ingredients lying in the kitchen. While helping out in the kitchen, the children understand that orange is round or an apple is red or green in color, a bitter guard is sour to taste, a pineapple has rough spiky skin, etc. They also learn that every food has a unique taste and smell. The children take in the aroma of the spices while cooking, and it is a great learning experience for them.
Children learn new words and improve their vocabulary used extensively in cooking. The meaning of words like knead, simmer, boil, double boil, raise, fold the ingredients, beat the eggs are familiar. They get accustomed to the words used while cooking along with their parents. Older children also get to read the recipes with their parents, and it is a learning experience for them as well.
LEARN NEW MATHS SKILLS
While following a recipe, the adult unconsciously teaches the child maths concepts like measurements and fractions. The concepts like conversion and measurements ( teaspoons/tablespoons or 1/2, 3/4, 1/4 cups) are learned unconsciously and applied practically. Slowly, they understand to double (measurements) or half the recipe (according to the number of people in the home).
ENCOURAGES TO TRY NEW FOOD
Sometimes children are very picky eaters. They only eat the food/ ingredients that they are accustomed to. In such cases, regularly cooking with children will help them understand the variety of food in the kitchen. Which in turn leads to their ability to try out new food. The child practically sees what goes into the meal preparation and is tempted to try it out.
TEACHES TO VALUE FOOD
When children are fully involved in preparing a meal from scratch, they see the ingredients that go into a meal. This makes them think twice or thrice before throwing away/ wasting food. Also, the children appreciate the hard work that goes into preparing the meal. The children feel grateful towards the family for providing the nourishment for the day.
There is better bonding with the family when parents cook with their children. It can be as simple as watching cooking shows together, peeling or chopping the vegetables while sharing childhood memories, or pouring over cookbooks together. There is a strong bond forming in the family. Slowly, the children enjoy being in the kitchen. Children get excited about new recipes and the ingredients. They also immerse in the family traditions and the history of dishes. This kind of simple learning stays with them for a long time.
LEARNING A LIFE SKILL
Everybody needs food to survive, and cooking is a rudimentary skill to learn. When a parent introduces it to their children from a young age, they become proficient and relish it. They know all about the ingredients and are much confident when they grow up.
HEALTHY EATING HABITS
While learning and experimenting with different foods in the kitchen, the children also simultaneously learn about healthy eating and nutrition. Having children participate in cooking meals or snacks helps them make better eating choices and try new things. It also introduces children to the cooking process and how things change from one thing into another through cooking or baking.
I believe that family bonding can happen anywhere, but when that happens in the kitchen, then it is magical. If you are already cooking together as a family – that is awesome! If you are not, then what are you waiting for? It is time to wear your cooking hats, aprons and start cooking
Do share with me your memories, warm stories, or any funny bonding stories from your kitchen in the comment section below. I am waiting to hear your stories.