When I was growing up, my mom, being a typical Asian mom, used to chase me out of the kitchen, claiming that with me around slowed down her cooking progress and created more work for her. She had to clean up my spills and watch me slowly pour water into the mixing bowl. So parents, do expect that it will take most likely double amount of time to make something when you allow your preschoolers to help with baking or cooking. The key is to prepare and start with the right expectations. You and your child can enjoy your time together in the kitchen and embark on a culinary adventure. When they learn to cook they will also learn about nutrition and what are the functions of different types of food.
Advantages of Allowing your Child to Help
There are a number of ways your child will benefit from this experience:
- Basic Skills Development
Your child will learn to develop their counting skills when they count how many cups of flour is needed to make a cake, or how many table spoons of butter is required. They will also learn how to read new words when they read the recipe and instructions. Listening skills are enhanced when they follow the steps in a recipe.
- Expand their Food Palate
When kids cook the food themselves, they are more likely to sample and try new foods. Even if it was just making something as simple as a cheese sandwich. You can encourage your child to perhaps add some ham into the sandwich and make it a ham and cheese sandwich. When your 5 year old creates that sandwich, he or she is more likely to eat it. That way you can slowly introduce them to many different kinds of new foods.
- Boost your child’s self confidence
When he or she serves the food they helped created, they will feel sense of achievement. And when the food is met with positive feedback from family members, it will further improve their self-esteem. Now they feel empowered, during Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, they can help make breakfast for mom or dad. Or perhaps when they are hungry, they can make themselves a sandwich, by taking two pieces or bread and put it between two slices of bread.
- Let their imagination fly
Encourage their sense of adventure and creativity. If your toddler wants to put potato chips into their kaya sandwiches, which they just made, let them. Kids should be allowed to explore and experience different things. If it taste horrible, at least they will learn through the experience.
When cooking with kids, do not leave them alone in the kitchen with knives or a hot stove. Always be around to supervise and be very strict that they are not allowed to switch on or try to light the stove when no adult is present.
About the Author
Kopi Soh has a MA in Psychology, Specializing in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. Her area of specialty is in working with children, adolescents, couples and families. She is also an artist and has published two self-help best sellers distributed by MPH, available in all bookstores throughout Malaysia.