Children love to cook. When they are little it’s the perfect opportunity to get their hands dirty – kneading bread or mixing a cake gives them a mucky thrill. Older children love the satisfaction of having created something delicious which their family can enjoy. But these simple pleasures are not all they learn when they cook.
Cooking isn’t just stirring and mixing – although that’s an important part of it and helps improve their fine motor skills – it also involves numbers. There’s no better way of becoming confident with numbers than knocking up some pancakes or a vegetarian lasagne. You quickly learn if 125g plain flour is more or less than 250g butter. Should you pour all those 125ml of milk in or will that be too much? Cookery teaches children the language of numbers as well as the concepts.
When it comes to reading, cookery gives children a practical incentive to get it right. They may be easily bored by bedtime stories or sitting still in the classroom reading a book. But the difference between a good fairy cake and a flat fairy cake maybe what gets them interested. Letting them read the recipe and then choosing the correct ingredients from a selection demands real concentration, but it’s easy for a child to understand the importance of using self-raising flour rather than the plain.
Doing the knowledge
Cooking is a great springboard for so many other subjects. A simple lesson in bread-making can cover so many areas in a really practical way. There’s the science behind why do you leave bread to prove? What is yeast – is it really alive? What’s the point of kneading? Then there’s geography: is bread our staple food in the UK? What are the staple foods of other countries and why are they different? Where does milk come from? Why does something like water turn into ice when it gets cold? As a launch pad its an entertaining way to get children interested in so many different subjects.
Teaching children how to cook from a young age is a good opportunity to teach them about the importance of hygiene. It’s a difficult thing to teach in the abstract – but if taught while they are cooking and making food for other people, it is easier to understand. Why should they wash their hands? What are germs? How do they spread?
It’s also a good time to learn about food hygiene too. Why should meat be put in the fridge? Why should chopping boards be kept clean? These are important practical lessons which every child should know.
Teaching children which foods will help them grow healthy bones, strong teeth and good skin means they are able to make informed decisions about what they eat. And if you also teach them how to cook those foods in a way they will enjoy eating, you are on the road to a healthy, strong child.
Children often find it easier to engage with learning if there is a practical element to it and they’re encouraged to move around and be active. Learning to cook can really bolster your child’s confidence. They can feel really good about themselves when they can successfully make delicious food which all their family enjoys. This reaction to their work and effort makes them more confident and in turn, this confidence feeds in to other parts of their life.
Looking for some inspiration? Take a look at our collection of Kids recipes.
If you have any of your own recipes you've found are perfect for getting kids involved, or if reading about our event has inspired you to create some new ones, we'd love for you to share them with us on the Real Food site.