You don’t have to be a professional chef to make meaningful experiences with your kids in the kitchen.
From creativity to decision making, prioritization to safety, cooking with your kids comes with countless benefits that work to shape their confidence, develop independence and support their autonomy.
In today’s session, I want to share several thoughts I have on why spending time in the kitchen with your kids is so important – and a few tips for getting started. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to catch even more great content – just like this.
Benefits of cooking with your kids
Two benefits for you
Sharing kitchen time with your kids offers tremendous benefits to their growth and personal development. But there are a couple ways you benefit, as well.
1. Better relationship with your food
When we eat out, we forfeit a lot of control over the food and ingredients we put in our bodies. You don’t always know what you’re eating – and that can be a problem.
When you spend time in your own kitchen, you’re the authority on how your food is prepared and what you’re using to make it. Remember, food isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when you have greater control over your food, your perspective is healthier – and you see food as nourishing and important.
2. Provides a creative outlet.
My software engineer husband, Kyle, spends his days deep in technical work, sitting at a computer and talking with people. Cooking is a pleasure time for him – and it’s why our family finds opportunities to work together in the kitchen.
For Kyle, cooking offers a creative release, freedom, flexibility and an opportunity to decompress. Much like a painter has a canvas and palette of colors, food lends itself to discovery and experimentation. This means you get to choose your own adventure and create new, exciting dishes.
Benefits for your kids
3. Develops curiosity
The kitchen is a place often filled with new adventures and experiences – and kids tend to ask lots of questions as they start exploring. Curiosity is important while preparing food, but also through the rigors of life.
Give your kids the space to ask questions as you all try new things. They’ll be more likely to engage with you throughout the process – which will likely carry over to other aspects of your relationship, too. Strong, inquisitive kids grow up to be tomorrow’s leaders.
4. Improves stronger decision-making skills.
There’s a lot of feedback kids get while cooking in the kitchen. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures provide for a variety of sensations and information to collect and consider.
Good decision making involves taking in data and doing something with it. Whether it’s hearing the sizzle of stir fry or watching water come to a boil, kids will learn to observe and react as they understand the sensory feedback in your kitchen.
5. Refine safety and situational awareness
With all of the benefits, the kitchen can be hazardous (to anyone) without safety and care. I encourage all parents, start by working through knife safety – and then learn how to avoid burns on the stovetop and oven.
Situational awareness teaches kids that they need to understand the dangers that can accompany a space – and how to minimize risk as they interact with it. This means things like keeping a younger brother or sister from running in the kitchen while they’re cooking.
6. Honing patience
Patience is definitely an acquired discipline – and the only way you hone it is in wading through the waiting. Nothing about cooking offers instant gratification … you’re always waiting on something to boil, brown or bake.
Your kids can learn to relax, take a breath and wait in the moment – even when the rewards aren’t as easy or tangible.
7. Explore project management and prioritization.
Cooking comes with order, structure and direction. My software engineer husband reminds me that, with this order, comes task management and responsibility.
In life, A plus B plus C is the formula to reaching your goals. By following instructions and taking responsibility for tasks along the way, cooking teaches your kids to stay on track and complete necessary tasks. They also hone prioritization as they juggle several cooking tasks at once (like food cooking on multiple burners.)
8. Reinforcing creative processes.
There’s so much creative energy in the kitchen. New dishes, exciting pairings and exploration give kids space to try new things and come up with their own creations.
Encourage your kids to try new things and to not shy away from being creative. This will carry over to school, work and life.
9. Supports reflection and meaning-making.
At some point in life, we started associating failure with our personal value. But know this, it’s a lie.
Sometimes you’re going to prepare a dish that’s absolutely amazing – and other times you wouldn’t want to share the disaster with your worst enemy. Failure allows us to reflect and make sense of experiences. Through this reflection, we can prepare ourselves to do differently next time.
4 tips for cooking with your kids
There are plenty of benefits – so now how do you do it? Here are four handy tips for getting started with your kids in the kitchen.
- Just do it. Sure, it may feel like cliché advice – but as with many things in life, simply taking that first step is so important. Even if you’re not the “kitchen type”, start finding recipes you’d like to try – and get in some practice.
- Get comfortable with kitchen safety. Understand how to properly care for the tools and the space, especially caring for and using knives and being prepared in case of fire.
- Be comfortable with experimentation. Try new tastes, use new ingredients and don’t be afraid to tweak recipes as you feel more confident.
- It’s never too late to start. Whether your kids are 6 … or 16 … you can encourage them to spend time with you in the kitchen. Make it fun, let them lead and help them find the value. The investment is so worth it!
Now it’s your turn …
Question: How have you spent time with your kids in the kitchen – and what advice would you share to get the whole family collaborating on cooking?