Why I Cook with My Children (+ Why You Should Too)
Whilst we are a Nigerian-British household, it’s important to me that my children can experience food from a range of cultures and this is reflected in what I cook at home. It’s not unusual for me to prepare Mexican fajitas on Monday, Nigerian eba and egusi on Tuesday and a Thai green chicken curry on Wednesday. Variety is the spice of life after all!
A friend once told about when he went to an Italian restaurant in Austria and ordered the only rice dish he saw on the menu because he wanted to pick a “safe”option. When a creamy, cheesy risotto was placed in front of him, he was truly astonished by what he saw! Where I can, I want my children to be confident and have a decent level understanding of world cuisines — if for nothing else, to avoid embarrassment! I’ve found that my son is far more likely to try new foods when he has somehow been involved in the preparation. Sometimes this even starts from the supermarket; we’ll be standing in the fruit and veg aisle and I’ll ask him to pick something new that he’d like to try. I mean, sometimes it’s a success and sometimes it’s not, but it’s a win in my book as long as he gives it a try.
Cooking with children definitely slows you down and can be messy. However, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Here’s why:
If you’ve got young children in the kitchen, you’ll most likely be forced to put your phone down or curb any other distractions and give your undivided attention to what you’re doing in the kitchen. It’s a way of creating memories together, sharing special moments, and having fun!
I remember being at university and surrounded mostly by two types of people. First, those who relied heavily on frozen home cooked meals from mum and second, people who simply ate unhealthy, processed, fast food that lacked nutritional value and variety. I always said to myself that when I had children, regardless of their gender, I’d ensure they have a number of good recipes under their belts. I’d never want to be stuck making meals for my university-aged children every weekend just to ensure that they were eating well. I’ll add that I don’t want my children (my son in particular) to be a burden on his spouse and be able to contribute to meals being cooked in the household! These reasons encompass why food and cookery skills are an absolute must! I also want to look forward to the days of being treated to delicious “breakfasts in bed” for Mother’s Day and birthdays — oh I just can’t wait!
Links with Different Education Curricula
There are so many numeracy skills kids can learn, practise, and reinforce when you cook with them. Simple counting, as well as time, weights, measurements, and fractions are concepts you’re bound to encounter whilst cooking. I remember making pizza with my son and using the opportunity to demonstrate halves and quarters.
I’ve also used recipe following when teaching English with my young primary class pupils. I often choose to teach topics such as “Instructions,” “Recounts” (describing something that has previously occurred), and “Time Connectives” (first, next, lastly, etc) by following a simple recipe with them. There’s no reason why this also can’t be modelled and practised at home too. Vocabulary building is also bound to occur as you are likely to be giving directions and discussing different ingredients.
The list doesn’t end there, there are potential links with science (understanding how ingredients/matter change), geography (where different foods travel from and different cuisines) and even technology (if using special equipment).
I thought it’d be fun to include a short conversation I had with my five-year-old son shortly before writing this.
Me: Do you like cooking, J?
Me: What do you like about it?
J: I like learning how to cook. I like putting the ingredients inside and you need to be so careful by the fire.
Me: And what are your favourite things to cook?
J: Jollof rice and pizza! And broccoli and cupcakes!
Me: Okay, so how do you make pizza?
J: Okay. So you get pastry* (I’m pretty sure that he meant dough!) and you put some tomato sauce and then you can put whatever toppings that you like, then you put it into the oven for ten minutes to cook, then you can eat it all up!
Me: Wonderful! Is there anything you don’t like cooking?
J: Errrr, something that takes too long or something that takes forever to make or something that makes you cry, like onions!
Me: I see. So how would you feel if you stopped cooking with mummy?
J: Because cooking is my favourite!
I believe my son has given you some final tips! When cooking with children, always take appropriate safety precautions, ensure the recipes don’t take too long (children are generally impatient!), keep it fun, and don’t let them chop the onions!
Do you cook with your children? What are you go-to recipes for when you have them in the kitchen with you? Do you think there are other benefits of cooking with children? I’d love to know!
Cynthia is a mum of two active children who keep her on her toes! She lives in London and enjoys baking, visiting new restaurants and traveling. Her other passion includes reading and writing about children’s books. You can check out her recommendations on Instagram You can keep up with Cynthia, her kids and her food stories on Instagram @cynthycynth87.