But even more importantly, by cooking with your children you are helping them to create memories. One of my favorite child development professionals, Bev Bos, is famous for her belief that it is memories that sustain children through childhood and are THE most important thing, not anything that we teach them. If we help our children create positive memories we help them develop confidence. We help them develop positive relationships in the future if they have memories of what those relationships should look like. Cooking is one thing that you can do with your children to help them create those positive memories.
Here are some tips for cooking with kids:
- Start with simple recipes that aren't going to fail if, say, they don't have the right amount of baking powder. Simple means that your child can help as much as possible, and that the likelihood of success is high.
- Let go a little. Not everything has to be perfect or look perfect. Making a mess is fine (and creates an opportunity for you to teach "clean as you go"). The trees can be yellow! That, by the way, is a dig at my mom, who freaked out just a little when frosting Christmas cookies with Izzy when my then two year old daughter wanted to frost a Christmas tree with yellow icing. And do it herself. My mom is a bit of a control freak. I talked her down, and we ended up with some amazingly unique (and overly frosted) Christmas cookies. I don't know if Izzy will remember that Christmas, but I know my sisters and I will.
- Get your children their own aprons. Personalize them if that's your thing. It's not really a cleanliness issue (not for us, at least). Aprons add a sense of festivity to an act as simple as whipping up a batch of biscuits. Kids get really excited about things as simple as their own apron (for what it's worth, I get excited about aprons, too, when they're cute like THESE).
- Don't discriminate. I would like to hope this isn't an issue and that I don't need to say this (and likely I don't to the type of people who read my blog, but I'm going to say it anyway...). Boys can (and should) learn to cook as well as girls. In fact, on most days you'll find Oliver by my side in the kitchen while Izzy is in the garage with my husband helping him fix his motorcycle. Because we encourage them both to try all things.
- Make healthy food most of the time. Treats are more fun (to both make and eat!), but you miss out on important nutritional lessons by only involving them in the treats. Let them help you pick a vegetable for dinner, and when they get a little older (insert your judgement here) let them help you do some vegetable chopping. Talk with them, while cooking, about how important it is to balance protein, starch, and vegetables at each meal and what kinds of foods are included in each group.
- Set them up to accomplish tasks you may not think they are ready to do. Ever let your two year old crack an egg? I can tell you almost certainly that it won't be perfect, but the egg will come out of the shell and your child will be so proud of his or her achievement. Have them crack the egg into a separate bowl so you can fish out shell fragments.
I know that cooking with kids makes the task take longer, and that it can sometimes be frustrating. But the memories you are making with your child will be worth it.
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