5 Great Reasons to Cook with Your Kids

In centuries past, parents taught their children to hunt, plow, sow, boil, and bake. They helped offspring understand what was safe to eat, how to prepare meals, and how to store food so it could be served months after it was made. Families made this investment every generation because they understood how good food preparation and management skills contributed to their future health and prosperity.

In a 2015 survey conducted by the market-research firm NPD Group, just 45% of those aged 18 to 24 considered themselves to be “somewhat good” or “good” at cooking. A skill that almost everyone used to learn is often no longer being taught at home.  This article reviews five reasons modern families should work to reverse this trend.

Learn important math skills

A child doling out cups of flour to make a cake learns to count. Adding sugar, baking soda, and baking powder teaches them about proportions. Eventually, they discover that a teaspoon of salt is not a tablespoon of salt because they taste the difference.

Manipulating and measuring ingredients by volume makes it much easier for children to understand math concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division when they are presented in school. Anyone who has ever rolled a teaspoon of dough into a sphere understands how a mass of fixed weight can change shape.

Helps understand safety and first aid

When parents teach a child how to safely peel a potato or slice a carrot, it’s a skill the child will use for the rest of their life. They learn how to avoid cutting themselves and how to store sharp tools.

When a child masters frying an egg, baking a potato, and boiling a vegetable, they become comfortable working with hot spaces, liquids, and gases.  When they inevitably cut a finger or burn a hand, they learn how to treat those minor injuries. Kids who learn to cook know how to put out a fire, clean up a slippery spill, and when to discard spoiled food.

When children aren’t taught to cook early and at home, acquiring safety and first aid skills becomes much more difficult.

Save money when they strike out on their own

Knowing how to fry up some pancakes for breakfast or cook pasta for dinner helps young adults spend less when they strike out on their own.

Knowing how to cook a variety of meals lets them entertain their friends at home, pack lunches to take to work, bake cookies for the office, and make something memorable for the company potluck.

Healthier than prepackaged foods

Food manufacturers creating packaged foods need to consider a long shelf life by adding salt, sugar, and other preservatives to most of the products they sell. Restaurants routinely use more fat, sugar, and salt in their recipes than most people do at home. Sometimes they do this to disguise the cheaper ingredients they use. Sometimes they do it because it’s what their customers want.

Home-cooked meals tend to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and also are typically lower in fat, sodium, sugar, and chemicals. Parents who teach their kids to cook may be helping them live a much longer and healthier life.

Encourages ingenuity

Cooking is an inherently creative activity. When a cook doesn’t have sugar, they use honey or fruit juice instead. When there isn’t enough baking soda, a cook can experiment with cream of tartar, yogurt, buttermilk, or lemon juice. Learning to cook encourages people to solve problems through experimentation and analysis.

Sometimes the process of combining ingredients to cook a favorite food will inspire improvements that make it even better. Chicken curry becomes tofu curry. A savory pie acquires a gluten-free crust.

When parents teach kids to cook, they create a home laboratory where occasional mistakes become amusing memories and the opportunity to try something different next time.

Worth the effort

Modern families are under pressure to do more every single day. Kids have lots of homework, parents work multiple jobs, even eating together every day is often impossible. But most families can find one or two days each week when they can cook at home.  Even this tiny investment can deliver all these benefits and inspire children to cook more often when they live on their own.

Parent Resources

Food Network has a section dedicated to cooking with kids. Check out the kid-friendly recipes and parent tips here!

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