why cooking?

“Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking.  It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.”

Guy Fieri

Summer vacation!  I’ve been looking forward to doing nothing all year!  Well, I found out my boredom plans were put on the back burner and were replaced with a bunch of blue cue cards.  Written in my mom’s classic script (not printing…cursive) was a recipe book name and page number.  The recipes were vegetable-heavy and all to be taken from the garden.  She would have all the other items in the fridge that were needed.  

We had been helping my mom in the kitchen up to this point, in the little ways kids do.  But this time – I was to do it all on my own.  I could call her if I was really stuck (or ask my sister, but that was considered cheating). But it was best if I could figure it out on my own.  She said sometimes it wouldn’t turn out, but it didn’t matter – just learn, and have fun.

So there my summer was spent.  It was two-fold: I was going to learn how to cook from scratch, reading and cooking an entire recipe on my own.  And I was going to learn how to identify and (correctly) harvest vegetables.  I think she also wished it bred in me a green thumb as well, but that was a little slow growing…(see my Why Garden article).

Looking back, I shake my head.  My mom, newly widowed, raising three kids and working full time, managed to somehow make a whole summer worth of recipe cards for me, all carefully chosen so most ingredients were from the garden.  She knew it was good for me, and, she was right.  I loved it.  I felt independent, and my confidence grew in the kitchen and the garden.  And as a young girl, that was powerful.  

I also experienced an incredible feeling: the happiness that comes from giving.  I was helping my mom. Like a little sidekick helping the superhero.  After all day crime-fighting (at the office), coming home exhausted, she could have a fresh, home cooked meal ready (that was hopefully edible).  It was small, but to a kid – small things seem enormous.  And now?  I still love to cook.  My favourite ingredient?  Home grown vegetables.  

The benefits of teaching kids to cook are endless.  It enhances math and motor skills, reading and comprehension, concentration and focus, dexterity, multi-tasking, and life skills like being safe around stoves and using knives correctly and safely.  It introduces them to SCIENCE!!  It also builds confidence, resilience (lots of things don’t turn out!), and  also lays the foundation for healthy eating later in their life.

So, parents:  kids love work.  We really do.  We may complain and roll our eyes and drag our feet…but in the end, we’ll love it.  And we’ll feel good.  And we’ll be happy.  And kids are smart.  Give them a chance to figure things out on their own.  

And kids: don’t be afraid of work.  It’s not scary.  It’s not boring (even though at first it may seem like it).  It’s a challenge sometimes yes, but what isn’t? Don’t you feel the most accomplished when you build that extra big snowman?  Climb that super large hill?  When you push yourself to run to one more soccer base?  Or when you finally pass that game level you kept dying on?  See it as an adventure.  And you may be surprised how much you end up loving it.  Believe us.  We were kids too.

Oh, and: vegetables are really good.  Really.  Just wait.

Why is Cooking and Baking Good for Kids?

Language Development

Reading, comprehension, communication

Physical Development and Motor Skills

Chopping, pouring, mixing, stirring, squeezing, spreading, kneading, tearing leaves, peeling

STEM

Cooks and bakers need to learn a little science and math

Social-Emotional Development

Builds confidence, self-esteem and independence

Health

Promotes healthy eating and appreciation for a variety of foods

Cognitive/Life Skills

Teaches problem solving, safety skills, how to follow instructions, multi-tasking and planning. Helps develop focus and concentration, creativity, resilience, confidence, and independence

Relationships

Builds family bonds and cooperation

Creativity

Experiment, decorate, create your own recipes

Multi-culturalism

Learning to cook foods from different cultures is a way to teach kids about different views and tastes, and how much fun it is to embrace, appreciate and enjoy all the variety of amazing people in our world.

Cooking Up Enthusiasm Through Reading

Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook (1-4 years)

  • Easy instructions, color coded that highlights child friendly steps
  • Healthy, wholesome ingredients, many incorporate natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup
  • Safety guide for introducing safely to tools and even gives a list of kid friendly kitchen tools

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs

  • With nearly 14,000 5 STAR reviews… I mean, that says something, right?
  • 100+ recipes
  • From America’s Test Kitchen
  • Kid-tested and approved recipes, thoroughly tested by more than 750 kids
  • Includes recipes for breakfast, snacks and beverages, dinners, desserts, and more.
  • Step-by-step photos of tips and techniques
  • Testimonials and product reviews from kid cooks

Food Network Magazine The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook

  • Includes 150+ recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts
  • Developed by the chefs from Food Network’s test kitchen
  • Safety in the kitchen is highlighted
  • Cooking tips and color photos for every recipe
  • Choose-your-own-adventure recipes (like design-your-own Stuffed French Toast)
  • Fun food games and quizzes (like “What’s Your Hot Dog IQ?”)
  • Bonus coloring book pages

Disney: The Simple Family Cookbook

Or Disney Princess Cookbook

  • If you need a way to lure your kids into the kitchen… maybe some Disney characters will help!
  • 100 simple recipes inspired by Disney characters (Spaghetti with Lady and the Tramp, Sweet Snowballs with Olaf and Elsa and Hawaiian pizza with Lilo and Stitch)
  • Each recipe uses only 2-5 ingredients
  • Simple instructions

BAKING BOOKS

The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs

  • Nearly 6,000 Five Star reviews
  • Tested by more than 5,000 kids
  • Includes recipes for breakfast, breads, pizzas, cookies, cupcakes, pretzels, emapanadas, pies, brownies and cakes.
  • Step-by-step photos of tips and techniques
  • Testimonials (and even some product reviews!) from kid test cooks

MasterChef Junior Bakes!: Bold Recipes and Essential Techniques to Inspire Young Bakers

  • 100+ recipes
  • Detailed step-by-step photos, in-depth MasterChef Lessons
  • Practical hints about must-have ingredients, neat kitchen gear, and the science of baking
  • Learn important basic baking skills like how to cream butter, shallow fry, whip and knead breads

Getting Started

See ‘Cooking with Kids‘ for some suggestions, tips, and resources.