Is there anyone out there who does not like to eat?
If you are a parent, you may very well have loads of stories about your preschooler who refuses 90 per cent of the food you cook. Many parents are also concerned about kitchen safety with young children.
However, put aside your scepticism for a moment and find out what the surprising benefits of cooking with your kids are.
Cooking helps develop motor skills
What are the skills that we use when we consult a recipe and cook a dish?
In terms of physical development, preschoolers hone their fine motor and hand-eye coordination when they cut up food, mix, spread or assemble dishes. Precision is needed to pour a cup of flour into a bowl without getting it all over the table.
If you are wary of allowing your child to use sharp tools in the kitchen, you can consider child-friendly tools such as the Kiddicutter or even reuse disposable plastic knives, which allows them to handle sharp implements in a safe way.
In our MindChamps PreSchool centres, child-sized workstations have been specially built and stocked with child-friendly kitchen utensils to accommodate little hands and small statures, letting them get up close and comfortable in the cooking process.
Cooking is full of opportunities for learning
When it comes to cognitive development, cooking is an amazing resource. We make use of numeracy (counting the number of spoonfuls of an ingredient), literacy (following instructions), science (how food changes when heat is applied) and even sensory experiences (the smell of spices, the elastic feel of dough, the sound of cheese bubbling in the oven, and of course the tastes and flavours of the finished dish).
We learn that a process is important – that we need to follow a recipe closely and to do each step in sequence, before we can apply creativity and put our own twist on the recipe. We feel accomplished and proud when we have created a delicious meal with our own hands.
For Gourmet Moments™ classes in MindChamps PreSchool centres in Singapore, teachers facilitate cooking activities based on the children’s interests and integrates them with the themes in the curriculum. For example, during Chinese New Year, some of our MindChamps preschoolers learned to make dumplings as an extension of learning about Chinese culture.
Cooking can be creative
Cooking is not just a science – it is also an art. If you ask your child to come up with new twists on a beloved recipe, you may be pleasantly surprised by the ingredient substitutes that your child can think of! It also develops their sense of aesthetics.
Allow them to decorate a cupcake with icing and sprinkles, or arrange toppings on pizza dough. These activities give the kids opportunities to design, decorate and display food in ways that look the most pleasing to them.
Cooking helps preschoolers to bond
Cooking together with friends or with family members is a wonderful social experience.
In a preschool setting, the children learn to cooperate with one another and how to take turns. Learning about an equitable division of labour is also an important social skill that they can pick up from cooking. From selecting a recipe to gathering the ingredients and taking turns to stir, pour and mix, cooking a meal in a preschool kitchen is a fun group effort.
Shared experiences are also a source of lasting childhood memories. Certain dishes may also have special significance for your family, such as cultural dishes or recipes that have been handed down from older generations. There is nothing like recreating your grandmother’s signature dish with your children, or showing them what you ate when you were a child yourself.
Cooking gets kids ready to eat
Studies have shown that children who are involved in meal preparation in school or at home have actually turned out to be an effective health promotion strategy. The data also showed that kids who did meal prep were more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices, and were more likely to include fruits and vegetables in their meals.
If your children are picky eaters, involving them in meal prep also means that they are much more likely to eat what they have made. They know exactly what has gone into the meal, they have invested their time and effort into making it, and they feel a sense of pride at their accomplishments!
Written by JoBeth Williams