Kids that get involved in the kitchen are happier and have longer lives. According to a study analyzed by CNN, cooking with kids promotes healthy eating habits, and leads to a reduced chance of obesity in adult life. There are of course challenges with getting kids involved in cooking – at least when it gets to moving past the stage of breakfast and other cold foods. The first comes in safety, a key part of getting kids involved in the kitchen without risking injury.
Safety, not stress
An important part of educating children is ensuring that it’s fun. As Today highlights, if there’s stress in the kitchen, the learning aspect is greatly diminished. However, in order to enjoy a lack of stress, children need to be kept safe. Teach about hot surfaces, and don’t allow children control over the oven, the hob, and so on. Furthermore, invest in equipment that’s appropriate for children; step stools, non-slip bowls, aprons and safety knives can help them to feel included while teaching important safety lessons.
Teaching the science
Much of cooking is inherently a lesson in science. The Maillard reaction is responsible for the delicious crunch and browning that some foods develop. Cakes rise because of the interaction between chemical sodas and the other constituent parts of the bread. Marinating chicken in buttermilk helps to tenderize the meat, easing cooking and making the end product tastier. Tell children what they’re doing when they get involved – how the magic of science is helping food to transform.
Bringing in nutrition
Showing children exactly how their foods contribute to the nutrients they need every day, from putting a meal together through to eating, will help to create good food habits. Simple links can also be formed – flour appears in both cake and bread, but how does it impact eating? You can put butter into a pan, but you can use vegetable oil, too – what’s the difference? Are there substitutes for common ingredients to make things ‘healthier’, and why would they be used?
More than anything, it’s about education. Encouraging children to be curious, and understand exactly how their food comes together, will produce serious health benefits for the foreseeable future. This provides them with a skill for life, and an appreciation for nutrition, too.