Cooking is a great way to bond with your little foodie while teaching her new skills. Though it’s time-consuming and there might be a huge mess, both you and your child will have an amazing experience together.
Getting your little one to help out in the kitchen teaches her about the raw ingredients used to make a meal, and helps her to make healthy food choices, while deepening her bond with you. It also teaches her science concepts ― for instance, what happens when you add more baking powder to your cookies?
You might also want to incorporate a little maths ― get her to count the number of teaspoons of sugar, or measure 100ml of water a particular recipe needs. If your child is able to recognise letters or even words, cooking together is a great way to teach her to read or recognise simple verbs like “pour” and “mix”.
So, how do you get started? We have tips…
1. Go shopping
Since you’ll need to assemble the ingredients required to put together a meal, make a date to take your mini-me to the grocery store. This is an important aspect of cooking because it teaches her that her meals come from “somewhere” and that work goes into creating that delicious dish that’s on the dining table. Plus, don’t forget to walk her through the prices – she’ll learn the value of money.
2. Choose your recipe
When cooking with junior, it’s a good idea to simplify things. Stick with a recipe that you’re already familiar with, so you don’t have to keep poring over the recipe while she waits for the next step. We all know what toddler attention spans are like, so pick a simple dish that won’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Baking some muffins, or mixing up a fruit salad is a good idea.
3. Time it right
Pick a good time for your cooking session ― when your tot isn’t overly tired. First thing in the morning (prepping brunch perhaps?) or after a nap is good.
Stick with a recipe that you’re already familiar with, so you don’t have to keep poring over the recipe while she waits for the next step.
4. Set out the ingredients
Placing everything you need on the counter before you start not only gives your tot a visual treat when she enters the kitchen and gets her excited, it also promotes safety. There’s less likelihood that you’ll take your eyes off her (and risk her falling off the step stool) while you reach into the refrigerator for the butter.
5. Talk her through it
As you begin, let her know what her “very important” tasks are. Tell her that she’s in charge of mixing, stirring, kneading the pizza dough and beating the eggs, for instance. You might even let her use a butter knife to cut things like bananas and mushrooms ― and don’t forget to teach her about knife safety!
6. Taste as you cook
Don’t miss this super-fun part of cooking! As you put the meal together, offer her little tastes of this and that ― a sip of the soup, or a bite of a fresh cherry tomato. Ask her to identify the tastes ― sweet, salty or sour, and praise her when she gets it right!
7. Cleaning up and setting the table
Cooking with kids can be messy, but thankfully, they like to clean up, too! Teach junior that this is an important part of cooking and make an event of setting the table as well. Let her pick the tableware and give her free rein as to how she wants to plate her food.
8. Dine together
Now comes the best part ― savouring the fruits of your labour! As you dine, talk about the flavours in the food, what you might want to try next time (apple slices instead of cucumber sticks), and what she has learnt after cooking with you.
If your munchkin is usually a picky eater, you might find her being more adventurous in her eating habits now that she has played a part in prepping the meal. She would also have acquired a healthy respect for food, and how certain foods can help both of you grow strong and healthy.
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