Cooking with the family - we’ve seen how it can result in healthy, fun and tastier meals. But there are even more benefits when you involve children in the process. It’s good to start them young too, when they are at their most curious and able to learn.
Here’s some ways in which they benefit:
1. You expand their sensory experiences - touch, sight, smell, sound and ultimately taste. In her special education school, teachers got Nadine to sniff herbs and spices, feel different textures and try out various tastes. It’s good stimulation for brain development.
2. They improve their motor skills and coordination - sorting, cutting, peeling, mixing all involve certain dual-hand plus eye-hand coordination. Their fine motor skills will certainly get a boost!
3. They expand their vocabulary and food knowledge. Learning about ingredients, how they are produced and used, and nutrition! Perhaps next time when you ask them where a chicken comes from, they will not say, “the supermarket!”
4. They learn how to count, measure and follow sequences, in a very hands-on way!
5. Life skills - knowing how to cook is an essential part of daily living and a great skill to have!
6. Confidence - when all of you successfully create a healthy dish or bake something nice, it really boosts their self-esteem and encourages positive attitudes.
7. Tradition - food is very much part of culture, and generations have been passing down knowledge of cooking and recipes. If your parents are still around, get them involved too! Learn as much as you can from them, and pass it down.
8. Bonding - cooking together is a great way to spend time communicating. This will help foster trust and closeness that will be so important as they grow older and need to share about pressure in school, issues with peers and life in general.
9. Creativity - They’ll graduate from PlayDoh pizza to the real thing! Let them experiment with combinations just to see how it works. Every meal they make will be an adventure! Getting them to work with new ingredients may make them more open to trying new food.
10. It’s fun! Yes, there will be some exasperation at times, but there are going to be laughs and beaming smiles all round, and lovely memories to cherish.
Tips on cooking with young children - most of these border on common sense:
1. Keep sharp items away! Give the kids safe utensils (wood or plastic).
2. Wash your hands before you start.
3. Always supervise them closely, don’t leave them alone.
4. Invite them to pick a recipe and gather up the ingredients from around the kitchen
5. Be flexible - substitute items that you don’t have available.
6. Let each kid participate in every step of the way, taking turns if necessary.
7. Have strict rules about the stove, oven and electrical appliances.
8. Read aloud the recipe along the way - this will help your child follow directions
9. Include clean-up as part of the routine!
10. Don’t go in hungry! Have a snack first, or you might get cranky kids!
Above all, enjoy the process, even though it may take longer, much longer than if you were cooking alone. The lack of speed and efficiency is more than made up by the benefits the kids will reap.
And if you haven’t already joined the Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s “Let’s Cook Healthy Together” photo contest, take a look at the prizes! You could win the top prize of S$3,000 worth of Fairprice vouchers, along with cooking lessons for the family at Cookery Magic! Contest details are in my first post here or at the website link above. Contest ends 9 Sept 2012, at 11:59pm (Singapore time), so hurry!
Not sure how to participate? There are just three simple steps:
1. Go to The ”Let’s Cook Healthy Together” Photo Contest app on Facebook.
2. Fill in your personal particulars.
3. Upload 1 photo (in .jpg format) of a dish that you cooked and submit the recipe you used.
That’s it! For bonus points, upload a photo of you cooking together with 2-4 family members or friends.
Here’s how the contest will be judged:
Max. Points Possible
a. How healthy is this recipe?
b. Are the key steps easy to re-create?
a. Does the dish look appetizing?
b. Is this a creative recipe?
Points are awarded for this activity, on a variable scale, based on the following criteria:
a. Does the Group Photo convey the message “Cooking Healthily Together”?
b. Does the group look like they’re having fun?
5 – 20 Points
100 (105 – 120 with Bonus Activity)
Have fun and keep healthy with your family!