Cooking With Kids: What Budding Chefs Can Learn

One giant green cookie
one jolly green giant cookie

When I was about 10 years old, I enjoyed making peppermint brownies with lime green frosting. It wasn’t an old time family recipe, but a recipe that I found on the back of the Duncan Hines brownie mix box. My parents politely ate a token amount the first time I made them, as well as the second time. After that, however, they respectfully told me that the brownies were probably more suited to a child’s palate than an adult palate, because they were so, “How should we say it, Dear, minty? Oh, and green!” Yes, they were very  green. Bright radioactive lime green.

When my relatives visited, preparations in our household were in order to welcome them, and I did my part by making peppermint brownies.  Aunt Lois simply raved about these brownies. My parents looked a little uneasy, which made my aunt even more enthusiastic about the flavor and all of its greenness. I will never know if she sincerely liked them or not, but I remember her kind words like it was yesterday and her encouragement was very important to me.

I haven’t developed a love of cooking or baking, and at best, I tolerate it. But I am still amazed at how cooking and baking teaches us so much more than a mere recipe. Ever wonder what your kids can get out of creating in the kitchen? Other than watching the anticipation on their faces as they peek at the goodies bubbling up through the oven window, that is? Here are a few skills they can develop that you may not have considered.

  • Kitchen and Food Safety – Ensure safety around major appliances and kitchen gadgets, as children need to master safety rules to ensure everyone’s protection. Always supervise children and discuss rules prior to getting started.
  • Reading – Reading the recipe, package labels, instructions, expiration dates, you name it!
  • Following Directions – Whether it is scouring the pantry for  ingredients, following what the recipe calls for, or following the rules, this one is a biggie!
  • Math – Counting, measuring, and you may want to consider the extra challenge of “doubling” a recipe for a little extra brain power.
  • Fine Motor skills – Measuring, mixing, rolling dough, using cookie cutters, placing cookies, pinching and adding ingredients all foster fine motor and strength, coordination and dexterity for little hands.
  • Turn Taking and Sharing – Enough said.
  • Task Completion – My kids are usually very excited about starting the cooking process, but sometimes lose interest half way through. Strategies such as selecting recipes that have short preparation time, or alternatively, that preparations can be made in stages are helpful.
  • Responsibility – Planning, cleaning up, and all those important life skills.
  • Nutrition – Okay, the giant cookie with mega food dye isn’t the best nutritional choice, but in general, talking about healthy foods and which foods are only considered “treats” is important. Also, children are more likely to eat nutritious foods if they are part of the process.
  • Problem Solving – When a culinary food disaster strikes, enlisting problem solving skills is a huge asset. My kids worked together to figure out how to get the large cookies off the cookie sheet without breaking.
  • Self-esteem – Kids feel proud to cook and bake — and if they are contributing a food source to the household, it is even better.

By the way, when my boys showed my husband their finished product, he said, “Wow! That is one big green cookie! And I love it!”

Is your child ready to take on a few meals?  Check out 8 family dinners kids can make, here.

Do you cook or bake with your kids? What have you learned about the experience? What have your kids learned?

My first cookbook
My first cookbook (by Patricia Petrich and Rosemary Dalton)