• Sara Silvestri, MD FAAP

Cooking with Your Kids is Important and Fun -Quarantine Fun #1

Since CoVID, we have been home so much more and families are challenged to find new ways to help entertain the kids. Where we live, we have luckily had a beautiful summer and have spent most of the last four months outdoors. However now, I can feel a fall crisp in the air. Normally autumn is my favorite season, but this year, I’m a bit more apprehensive of the change to cooler weather and the inevitable increase in time spent indoors while social distancing. In the Quarantine Fun series, we will explore some projects to pass the time with your kids while hopefully increasing your chance to bond and entertain everyone.

For the first two months of quarantine while it was still cold and damp out, we spent several days baking and cooking. Here are some great reasons to explore cooking with your children:

Cooking is Love

Any good Italian Grandmother will tell you that cooking is love. Little kids love to spend time with their parents. It is important for a child to feel that they can be helpful to an adult which promotes their self-worth and self-esteem. While it certainly is slower for little hands to measure out a cup of sugar, the sense of accomplishment that he or she will gain from doing “a good job” will help them become confident adults. So while cooking can be a fun activity, it also helps solidify the bonds between parents and children and build self-esteem.

The Ultimate in Sensory Play

The importance of sensory play has really come to the forefront of early childhood education in the last several years. Cooking is full of sensory experiences. Little hands can help mix different ingredients together and feel the result. Smells abound in the kitchen and help add to the sensory experience. The vision of a gooey egg being mixed into flour can be a delight. Hopefully the sound of a spoon scraping the bottom of a mixing bowl will become intermingled with warm smells and warm memories as they age.

Sneaking in Education

Cooking is a great opportunity for education and learning. For little kids, simply counting the cups of flour or naming the colors of the vegetables can be enough. For older kids, how many ¼ measuring cups would we need to make 2 cups of water? Kids can learn the difference between proteins and carbohydrates. The whipping of heavy cream or egg whites is a wonderful science experiment all by itself. Scooping, stirring, cutting (with the help of an adult) are all exercises for fine motor skills. Cooking is a great way to engage older children in the understanding of healthy eating and overall wellness and nutrition.

Helping Picky Eaters

Engaging children in the process of cooking or baking is a great way to help picky eaters expand their palates. Start by involving kids in the process of shopping for food to eat. A scavenger hunt at the grocery store is a fun way to explore different foods. For bonus points, involve them in gardening and have them grow some of their foods. The more involvement they have from the store or garden to the plate, the more ownership they have. When kids take some ownership of the meal, they will likely be more willing to try something new on their plates.

Learning Safety and Responsibility

Kitchens with hot stoves and sharp knives can be dangerous places for children. However, with the proper guidance from an adult, children will learn how to be safe and what items should be avoided or only used with the help of an adult. Older children can learn food safety and how to properly handle different foods to decrease foodborne illnesses. Finally, cooking can be messy and learning to clean up after oneself is a very important self skill to master.

So don’t be afraid. Invite the kids into the kitchen to make some fun, yummy foods and some wonderful memories.

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