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Cooking With Your Little Ones

By Dinah Torres Castro

Cooking With Your Little Ones

Snow days…what to do at home on a snow day? Out of the hundreds of things to do with your children on a miserable day you are probably not even considering…cooking. Cooking with your little ones can be quite the adventure. You don’t have to be very skilled or have fancy equipment. Start off with a simple recipe like a fruit or vegetable salad and explore more options as the child ages and her skill level increases.

Safety in the kitchen should always be addressed as you introduce your little ones to cooking. Important lessons in food safety as well as making the child aware of the dangers of sharp items, hot stove tops or ovens, slippery spills and proper use of electrical appliances must be taught and repeated every time you are in the kitchen with little ones. Most importantly you must be committed to supervising and gently guiding your child as they learn to cook.

In the beginning when they are very young stick to having them help pour liquids into measuring cups and mixing bowls, stirring in ingredients, washing fruits and vegetables, counting foods and helping to clean up. Don’t forget that part of getting meals on the table includes setting the table. Have your child fold paper or cloth napkins and place them at each setting.  As the child gets older they can have the responsibility of setting the entire table on their own.

Cooking with your child is also a great way to get them to try new foods or simply foods that they have refused to eat in the past—like vegetables.  Once the child has spent the time preparing a dish like salad they tend to take ownership and pride in their accomplishment; and they are more likely to eat what they created.

And finally, let’s not forget the many benefits of cooking with your children; you are spending time and creating memories with them that can strengthen family bonds and teach them life skills they will use throughout their lives. And, cooking itself provides a wonderful environment for learning other skills such as:

  • Reading: recipes  can introduce new vocabulary and other reading skills
  • Math: measuring, counting and step by step directions
  • Science: seeing firsthand how cooking changes foods—dough rising, sugar dissolving in water  and eggs cooking
  • Cultural awareness: start conversations on diversity by preparing foods from other cultures) and
  • Social Skills: learning to work together, taking turns, problem solving—too much flour can result in dry, hard cookies what can we do next time?

Cooking with your child can be fun and stress free if you take the time to plan ahead—read the entire recipe ahead of time and make sure you have all the ingredients and utensils needed beforehand.  With very young children you may want to start more complicated steps ahead of time so the child doesn’t get bored or distracted. Remember, cooking can be fun!

Additional Resources:

Super Crew’s guide to Cooking with Kids

Kids in the Kitchen

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at dc258@cornell.edu.

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