Why Parents Should Teach Their Kids to Cook

In the late nineties, home economics was removed from the province’s educational curriculum. As a dietician and mother, I believe that cooking is an essential life skill which should be taught in schools. That being said, when it comes to meal preparation there is no teacher more influential than a parent.

Unfortunately, many of my clients struggle with preparing healthy meals because they lack basic cooking skills. This is one reason many of us often resort to choosing processed and packaged foods which are not the best for our health. I always encourage my clients to eat home-cooked meals. When prepared right, meals cooked at home are much more nutritious than store bought.

Cooking is a skill that needs to be encouraged at an early age in order to equip your children with the tools they need for optimal nutrition and health in the future. The trick is to get your children involved at every step of food preparation― make cooking a family activity!

Have fun grocery shopping

Take your children grocery shopping often and make it fun by giving them small tasks. Picking out groceries is a real sensory experience for little ones. Get them involved by assigning tasks such as filling up bags with fruit and vegetables. Children are usually amazed by the sight, smell and touch of food. One way to foster their curiosity is by visiting local farmers’ markets and farms. Whenever possible, try to choose locally grown and/or seasonal ingredients. Fruit and vegetables that are grown far away spend lots of time ‘on the road’ and have more time to lose nutrients before they reach our plates.

Once you get home, ask your children to help put away the groceries. Always praise them for their participation; this will make them more likely to ‘help out’ in the future. 

Prepare together

Children as young as toddlers and preschoolers can do lots in the kitchen! I agree that including the kids in cooking meals requires time, patience, and some extra clean-up, but trust me; it is well worth the effort and will pay off when they are older. Young children can wash fruit and vegetables, cut soft fruit with butter knife, mix ingredients and help set up the table. Older children can make simple recipes and teenagers can choose new recipes to cook.

A fun activity is to go through cook books with your children and select recipes. This not only helps with your grocery list, but it is the first step in outlining a menu and cooking schedule for the week ahead –which is a must for busy families!

Enjoy your food

Did you know that kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepared it? Make the best of family meals by creating a pleasant and positive meal environment. At the dinner table, disconnect from devices and turn off the TV and enjoy your time together as a family. It is not the quantity but the quality of family meals that count. We put so much effort in cooking and shopping for ingredients and don’t always take the time to savour the final product.

Always encourage your children to try new foods but don’t pressure them into eating it. Bribing kids to eat or forcing them to finish their plate does more harm than good. In order to develop a positive relationship with food, we have to respect everyone’s appetite!

Ishy Dee