Cooking can help young kids learn and practice some basic math concepts and build language skills. And the experience of creating meals with you can help build their self-confidence and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits.
It may take a little flexibility and some simple prep work, but with the right expectations, your time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be a culinary adventure you'll both enjoy.
Bringing kids into the kitchen can benefit them in a number of ways. Cooking can help:
A few tasks in the kitchen are particularly well-suited to kids ages 3 to 5. The key is to give them "jobs" that meet their skill level and are something they enjoy. So if your child loves to pound, bring out the bread dough and let your preschooler pound away.
Here are some other ways kids can help:
From riding a tricycle to getting dressed, preschoolers are learning how much they can do all by themselves.
So look for a few cooking-related activities that your child can successfully complete independently or with a minimum of involvement from you. Simple tasks like pouring liquid into the bowl, sprinkling cheese on top of the casserole, or using cookie cutters are a good fit for most preschoolers.
Don't plan an elaborate project — 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.
As kids grow, they will develop the skills, attention span, and interest to do bigger cooking jobs, like squeezing the juice out of a lemon, measuring ingredients into cups and spoons, and beating eggs or mashing potatoes.
Preschoolers will also enjoy learning with you. For safety reasons, you should be in the kitchen with them at all times, supervising and monitoring progress.
Spending time in the kitchen with your kids can foster an interest in food and cooking that will last for life!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2011
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