20 valuable benefits of cooking with toddlers

Posted 30/04/2017 in Fun facts

Do you cook with your toddlers? There are so many benefits to letting your children help out in the kitchen. They learn, develop and enjoy themselves so much. Here are twenty awesome reasons to start spending more time cooking with your toddlers.

1. Mathematics skills
Counting, addition, multiplication, ratios, fractions, measurements, timing etc are a fundamental part of cooking. Measuring and combining ingredients, altering recipes, and increasing recipe amounts are all excellent real life applications of mathematics.

2. Literacy skills 
As well as basic reading skills, following recipes really helps to promote reading comprehension. You are not only reading the words with your toddler, you are really focusing on what those words mean and what steps they are instructing you to take in order to prepare a particular dish.

3. Science in action
Cooking really is a science! What happens when you heat up butter? What happens when you add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients? What happens when you add food to a frying pan of hot oil? Cooking allows your toddler to explore many fascinating interactions between different substances.

4. Following instructions
Following a recipe is an excellent way for your toddler to practice following instructions. While cooking with you they will be engaged and enthusiastic about what they're doing and what steps they need to follow.

5. Language and vocabulary
Cooking is a great way to introduce new words, phrases and concepts to your children. They will learn the meaning of words like whip, beat, combine, sift, measure, simmer, chill, knead, and many more that they otherwise may not hear or use.

6. Communication skills
As you cook with your toddler you will be discussing what you're doing, giving each other instructions and making observations to each other. It's a really good way to have meaningful and intentional discussions with your children.

7. Creativity
Cooking can be about following a rigid set of instructions, but it can also be about winging it and seeing what happens. Try combining basic ingredients to create your own recipes with your children, experiment with different ingredients and quantities and let your toddler make plenty of decisions during the process.

8. Promotes cooperation and sharing
This one is particularly true when you are cooking with more than one child. While cooking, your children will have a fantastic opportunity to practice sharing and cooperation. Taking turns mixing, cracking one egg each, having one child pour the milk in while the other pours the melted butter, etc are all good examples of implementing this skill while cooking. If you are cooking with just one child, you can definitely still practice sharing by taking turns with your child and sharing the work with them.

9. Life skills that will help them when they reach adulthood
By making cooking a part of your child's life early on they will get so much valuable practice for their adult lives. By the time they reach adulthood and need to cook for themselves and their own families they will be competent and confident in their ability to prepare healthy foods and reduce the need to rely on processed and fast foods.

10. Builds their coordination and fine motor skills
Pouring, scooping, measuring, mixing, these are all great ways for your children to work on their fine motor skills. These simple activities that are a fundamental part of cooking encourage your toddler to move with coordination and precision.

11. Quality bonding time with your children
Cooking together is one of the best ways to spend quality time with your toddlers. The whole experience will be so much fun for both of you and you will be creating wonderful family memories.

12. Gives your toddler a self confidence boost
Learning to cook gives your toddler an enormous sense of pride, accomplishment and self confidence. Just take a look at the expression on their little faces when they present the finished product for a taste test and proudly exclaim that they created this! They will begin to learn that they can achieve great things, no matter how big and impossible they may seem, by breaking the whole thing down into smaller, achievable steps.

13. Encourages them to try new foods
One thing that goes hand in hand with cooking is taste testing! A toddler who is normally reluctant to try anything new will suddenly find themselves exploring new flavours and textures as they taste test the ingredients and mixtures throughout the cooking process. They are also more likely to willingly eat a meal if they were the ones who helped to prepare it. I'm not promising anything, but it's certainly worth a shot!

14. A great sensory experience
Cooking is such a good way to engage all your toddler's senses. Let them immerse themselves in this ultimate sensory experience, let them dig their (clean) hands into the dough, let them smell and taste all the safe ingredients you're using (don't allow your children to taste raw meats, raw eggs, etc), let them get messy!

15. Opportunity to teach them to clean up messes in the kitchen after cooking
Cooking with toddlers can be extremely messy! Take this opportunity to show your children the importance of cleaning up after themselves. Show them the steps to take to clean up - dispose of any scraps and rubbish appropriately, put all unused ingredients away where they belong, wash dishes, wipe bench tops, sweep floors. These skills are just as valuable to your children as cooking skills are, and practicing them now will save them a lot of trouble later on in life.

16. Opportunity to demonstrate and discuss risks in the kitchen and how to navigate them safely
Raising kids is not about eliminating all the risks - it's about providing them with the knowledge and skills to safely navigate any risks they may come across in life. Sharp knives, hot ovens, hot water, etc are all part of cooking, and your children will benefit so much from learning which of these risks they are ready to handle, and how to handle them safely.

17. Opportunity to demonstrate and discuss the need for good hygiene in the kitchen.
Teach your toddlers to wash hands and bench tops thoroughly before preparing food, to wash hands again if they blow their nose or lick their fingers while cooking, and explain the reasons why we need to do this. Cooking is a great way to show your toddlers real life examples of why we need to practice good hygiene.

18. Opportunity to discuss good nutrition and healthy food choices
As you are using ingredients, talk about them. Are they fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products? Do they grow on trees, are they processed in a factory, what nutritional value do they have? Is it something that should be eaten often for good health? Or something that we can enjoy occasionally as a treat? Cooking is an excellent hands-on way to engage your toddler while they are learning all this valuable information.

19. Teaches them to appreciate the work put in to a home cooked meal
Children are much more likely to appreciate the fact that someone has cooked them a meal if they understand the work that has been put into it. Without cooking themselves, small children have very little idea that there is a process behind the meal they are eating. Remember to thank whoever has prepared the family meal, and encourage your children to do the same.

20. It's fun!
Cooking with your toddlers is FUN! You will enjoy each other's company, be silly together, and encourage each other. You will spend this time devoting your complete attention to one another and the fun task at hand. This one is without a doubt the very best reason for cooking with your toddlers!




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