Shaping Up: Why you should encourage your kids to cook

Max likes nothing better than messing about in the kitchen.
Max likes nothing better than messing about in the kitchen.

Teaching your kids to cook from a young age is one of the most important things you can do in their upbringing.

Putting frozen chips and turkey dinosaurs in the oven doesn’t count though!

I’m talking about cooking with healthy, fresh ingredients to make nutritious meals.

The habits they develop now will stay with them for the rest of their lives, so make sure they are good ones.

I’ve encouraged my kids, Max and Jessica, to help me in the kitchen since they were about two years old, and they love it.

They have loads of fun getting their hands messy, and they get a buzz from helping me out.

I always promote fresh, nutritious foods when we cook together so they get used to eating healthy.

They now make healthy choices on their own, I don’t have to disguise veggies or force them to healthy foods.

In fact, my parents brought some bunny-rabbit shaped crumpets for the Max and Jessica last weekend. I toasted them on Saturday morning and drizzled honey on them.

But, the kids didn’t want them, they asked for oats with yoghurt and fruit instead. It was great to see them making a healthy decision on their own, with no persuasion from me.

Teaching your children about healthy eating isn’t the only benefit of getting your children in the kitchen though. Let’s take a look at all of the other benefits too:

IT’S AN IMPORTANT LIFE SKILL

I’m grateful I learned basic cooking skills at a young age. I know many adults who don’t feel confident in the kitchen, and they really struggle to consistently cook healthy meals for their families because of it.

BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS

In addition to helping parents to spend time with their children, cooking together fosters co-operation and communication among siblings. It’s amazing how well brothers and sisters will work together when there’s a batch of cookies at stake!

GIVES APPRECIATION FOR REAL FOOD

Preparing foods from scratch allows children to see for themselves the difference between real foods and processed ones. As you cook, talk about the health benefits of the wholesome fresh foods.

CUTS DOWN ON PICKY EATING

Even the pickiest eaters will come around to trying new foods if they were involved in cooking them. If you’ve got a picky eater, bring them into the kitchen. Be patient – even if it doesn’t work right away, it will eventually!

DEVELOPS FINE MOTOR SKILLS

Stirring, rolling, measuring, sprinkling are just a few kitchen tasks that allow young children to hone their fine motor skills.

REQUIRES FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS

What child couldn’t use a little more practice in this area? They’re motivated to get it right because dinner may taste bad if they don’t.

PRACTICES READING

My can now read a recipe herself, gather her supplies, and start preparing it with very little assistance. She loves the sense of accomplishment, and I’m excited about how much easier my job just got!

PRACTICES MATHS

Cooking involves lots of math – simple counting (three tablespoons), more than/less than (add a little more), fractions (1/2 cup), and the list goes on.

CREATIVE OUTLET

Kids love getting to help decide what’s for dinner, what goes in the fruit salad, or just about any other part of the meal. Older kids can express their creativity in recipe development and food presentation.

CHANCE TO BE PRAISED AND ENCOURAGED

We all know kids love being praised for their accomplishments. Teaching kids to cook provides opportunities to encourage and applaud their efforts in the kitchen. It’s great to see the kids faces light up when you tell them they did a great job!

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE

Whether it’s making healthy cookies for grandma, or a protein shake for daddy, it’s important for children to see food as a tool to show loving care for others.

* Your Trainer: Graham Low, owner of East Coast Fitness, is an award-winning personal trainer based in Seaham.

The ex-professional footballer was nominated for the Small Business of the Year and Leisure Awards at the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards last year.

Graham won the Leisure Award at the North East Hotels Association Awards while working as gym manager at Seaham Hall in 2012.

For personal training, boot camps, small group training and online programmes email graham@eastcoast-fitness.com or visit www.eastcoast-fitness.com