Things to do with kids : Fun cooking time
It was during this winter break, when the family was sitting at the breakfast table with endless cups of coffee and tea that my 2 young nephews burst into the room in obvious excitement. Maybe bored by all their electronic devices, they had decided to explore their other talents. The talent of the day was their cooking prowess ! And so the “Double A” restaurant was born.
I must say it was a great time – as the school break was on, everyone was more relaxed. And the entire family had gathered at my brother’s house – so the kids had grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and their parents, all ready to be their guinea pigs !
Oh they were very professional about the entire deal. The younger one (he’s 9) picked up a clipboard and a pen and went around the table taking orders from everyone for lunch. A couple minutes into that activity, I think he realized things were going out of control as he excused himself and rushed to the refrigerator. Guess he needed a bit of an inventory check before he took the orders J So now he came back to more of an “order off the menu” options rather then his free format earlier. And once he had his orders, his elder brother (who’s 11) and he worked out a strategy of who was to do what, and got right down to it. Of course, there were frequent rushed consultations with their mom and grandma on “how do you do this”, and “how do you cut that” and an occasional “can you help me, I can’t reach there”. As it was their show (at their ask), we were all sitting nearby ready to rush in when called, but not looking over their shoulders. Pretty soon, they were setting the table and calling us in for lunch. I must say that was the yummiest the sandwiches and shakes lunch I’ve ever eaten. Served with love, and a lot of pride !
And that got me thinking. Normally, I’d see the kids trying to wriggle out of doing their chores, but here was something they were keen on doing, because the way they worked out it wasn’t a chore.
So I got to thinking that cooking may top my list of fun family indoor things to do with kids, and how I could use cooking with kids to teach them some other life skills also :
- Responsibility : the kids choose tasks they are comfortable with, and they know they had to complete each task to move on to the next one. They knew that if they didn’t do it, no one else would. They could however ask for help when stuck
- Interdependence or teamwork : as everyone is doing a part of the entire recipe, they know that the end product depends on everyone getting their bit just right. It was interesting to see both brothers lend each other a helping hand through the afternoon
- Following a process : The simple act of sequencing tests comprehension for the younger kids, and builds discipline for older kids. They recognize that if they do not follow the process of the recipe, it’s likely they’re going to go hungry !
- Self confidence : cooking gets instant feedback, whether when the kids see the cake rise in the oven, or the smiles on everyone’s faces when they serve up a good meal. The motivation this provides beats any pep talk I could give them or that they would get in school. This is their achievement, and they wear it with pride
- Practice makes perfect : it’s not often that one would criticize something kids have made, but there could be opportunities for constructive criticism, not least from the kids themselves. This is also an opportunity to learn about problem solving, as the kids can keep thinking of how they could improve something or deliver a taste they like.
- Letting one’s creativity loose : With all the cooking shows on TV today, kids are happy to experiment and learn. Younger kids learn the names of different fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, etc while older kids get an opportunity to explore new cuisines and develop their palate
- Love of healthy food : we have a little kitchen garden, and as part of any cooking experiment, the kids get to pluck fresh herbs and some vegetables from the garden. They understand the importance of washing their fruits and vegetables before eating them. Seeing how the food is prepared from scratch, using fresh ingredients, making their own smoothies with fresh fruits and berries – it was like magic. The kids prefer this activity to a frozen pizza popped in the oven most days now ! I’ve seen them looking up recipes for kids to make and they have me on the lookout for healthy snacks for kids that they can make themselves.
- Safety in the “workplace” : Whether it be cleaning vegetables to eat “safe food” or safety while cooking with fire, using sharp blades : knives or blenders, the kids learn to respect these elements
- Cleaning up after oneself : this kind of happened naturally, as the kids saw the adults do the same. Also keeping their workplace clean, as spills had to be wiped before the kitchen became really messy. I pray they will carry this learning through to their toy room !
- Good manners : the entire cooking session, and serving the food thereafter was an exercise in “please” and “thank you”s, and the kids were involved every inch of the way.
Most importantly, this experiment with cooking took the kids away from their screens and got them to have fun while doing something useful. How cool is that ! They also participated in the linked chores as they were keen to lay the table, very keen to plate the food just so (thank you TV cooking shows !), and even helped in clearing up afterwards. I’ve never seen the dishwasher loaded so fast !!! And the entire exercise created a perfect moment for silent bonding, an opportunity to share any worries and secrets from their day-to-day life, in the spirit of camaraderie in the kitchen.
Oh, one thing. Do remember to take lots of pics of your kids as they go about this activity. Clip them onto the fridge to bring back smiles to your face whenever you are having a rough day in the kitchen ! And remember cooking as a family is more fun than cooking alone, so what if there is more cleaning up to do too !
Are your kids interested in cooking ? If they want to try their hand learning, we have lots of cooking classes that could help your kids explore their skills. Simply click on www.versatilekids.com/kidsactivities/all-providers and select “cooking” to find a class near you.
Can you think of other life skills cooking teaches kids ? Do write in, we would love to hear from you
P.S. A linked fun activity would be planning the menu for another family cooking session, finding the recipes and shopping for ingredients together. This helps kids learn the importance of planning, handling money, time management and other related skills. Enjoy !