It's messy. It's time-consuming. And sometimes it's downright frustrating. But inviting your little one into the kitchen comes with its own rewards and outcomes for your kiddo. You'll see some immediate results, like his flour-crusted smile, and long-term effects he'll enjoy as he grows up. So grab an apron -- you'll need it -- and a kid-friendly recipe to get started.
He may love peanut butter and jelly now, but someday, cooking skills will serve him well. By getting him in the kitchen early, you won't have to worry about him eating carry-out every night as an adult. Many kitchen tasks, such as cutting with sharp knives and using the stove, are too dangerous for a young child. Many other jobs are just right for little hands. Teach him to wash produce, peel vegetables, crack eggs, whisk, stir and pour. Seeing a dish come together shows him why it's important to follow the recipe. Don't worry if some of your cooking adventures are flops. Those experiences just reinforce why the directions are important.
Is your chef-in-training a picky eater? Getting him in the kitchen may actually help at the dinner table. There is no guarantee he'll gobble down his own cooking creations, but he may be more likely to taste test those veggies he helped wash and peel or the meat he seasoned. Meal time becomes more exciting when his dishes are the star of the show. If you include him in the meal planning process, he learns from a young age how to put together a healthy meal.
You want to keep cooking fun for your kiddo, but that doesn't mean he can't learn something too. Don't worry if he's too little to understand fractions. He can see the size difference between a 1/4-cup measuring cup and 1/2-cup measuring cup. He practices counting when he keeps track of how many eggs you've cracked. And he may not realize it, but he's learning about science when he watches the batter change into a pancake. Talk about what's happening in the kitchen. Let him line up the measuring cups by size.
Time spent in the kitchen with your kiddo means you're working together and bonding. You're not sitting next to one another staring at a screen. He's not off digging up trouble on his own. It sounds cliche, but the kitchen is an ideal place to make memories. You probably have your own memories of helping out in the kitchen. Even young kids get to feel like a valued part of the family who can contribute to getting dinner on the table. All that new responsibility may just leave him with a boost in confidence over a cooking job well done.