Ten reasons to get your kids cooking, plus a special kid-friendly paratha recipe!
For most parents, the mere thought of having their toddler join them in the kitchen brings on high levels of anxiety. However, there’s more than a few reasons why it might be worth doing a little bit of planning and prep work to bring your children into the kitchen. Cooking as a family is not only fun for the kids, it also creates numerous enjoyable family experiences, educational opportunities, and valuable teaching moments.
1. Promotes Healthier Eating Habits
A recent study conducted by the University of Alberta shows that children who cook at home are more likely to enjoy healthier foods, like fruits and veggies. The research also showed the same children who helped with meal preparation understood the importance of making healthier food choices.
2. Builds Self-Esteem and Ownership
Being involved in the meal preparation process helps children take ownership for the meal. It’s no longer just dinner, it’s “dinner that I helped make”. Kids feel like they are contributing to the household, which, in turn, builds self-esteem. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes with seeing the family enjoy something that they've worked hard to prepare.
3. Creates a Bonding Experience
Memories aren’t necessarily built with expensive toys or elaborate vacations. The most cherished moments are the moments we spend together - talking to one another, learning and experiencing things together as a family. Cooking together is a great way to spend quality time with your child and build fun memories.
4. Teaches Valuable Life Skills
No parent wants their child on the 24/7 ramen noodles diet in college. Give them a head start by teaching them the important life skill of eating right. Arming your children with a repertoire of healthy, easy to prepare recipes will give them the gift of a healthy body and healthy mind as they grow older and face the real world (without you!)
5. Reinforces Basic Mathematical Concepts
As a teacher, I’ve always loved cooking with my students because it is a fantastic way to teach basic math principles. For the younger ones, you can count, add, and subtract ingredients. As they grow older, you can use baking measurements to exemplify the use of fractions, or double a recipe to practice multiplication. This is a great way to show your kids that math exists outside of school.
6. Demonstrates Scientific Principles
Before the cupcakes go in the oven they look (and taste) a lot different than when they come out! Baking and cooking are great examples of the science of chemical change as a result of heating our food. Showing your toddler how things can change colour (roasting marshmallows, anyone?) introduces them to the wonderful world of science.
7. Teaches Importance of Following Instructions
Following a recipe helps your toddler practice following a sequence of instructions: another important life skill. They can see the importance of doing things in a specific order, and have an opportunity to practise this valuable skill.
8. Promotes Creativity
If Math and Science aren’t good enough reasons for you, the creativity that comes with cooking should be! If your “right-brained” child is showing an affinity for creative tasks, have them experiment with recipes. They can add or subtract optional ingredients, customize it to their liking, or, my personal favorite, plating the finished product ready to serve to the family.
9. Fosters Cultural Awareness
With so many delicious cuisines, cooking is a great way to introduce your child to build cultural awareness. It serves as a great teaching moment as you can talk about the different ingredients, and explore how they smell, taste, and feel. Not only will you be educating your children about unique flavours, but they will be more willing to experiment when you venture out to your favorite AYCE sushi place.
10. It's Fun!
Any opportunity for your toddler to get his or her hands messy is a fun one! Don’t worry about doing things the right way; instead, focus on having a good time with your child, and building memories. They won’t remember whether or not there was enough salt in the soup, but they will remember how much fun they had making it with you.
Here’s a few helpful tips to ensure the experience is enjoyable for all:
- Show children how to practice good hygiene in the kitchen: wash hands before beginning.
- Consider purchasing some kid-friendly knives that will easily cut through fruits and vegetables, but keep little fingers safe.
- For older toddlers, a step stool or learning tower to bring them up to counter height will give good visibility and help them become more actively involved.
- Being messy is part of the fun. Yes, it means more cleanup; don’t forget to remind the kids they’ll be helping with that too!
- And, most importantly, safety always comes first: children should always be kept a safe distance from heat sources.
We want to help you get started! Here’s a recipe for kid-friendly aloo parathas, or potato-stuffed flat bread. You can download a printer-friendly version here.
What you’ll need:
- 2 boiled potatoes, cooled to room temperature
- finely chopped cilantro
- spices, to taste: you know your child best! Use as little or much as you think you’d like.
- Cumin powder
- dried mango (amchur) powder
- red chili powder
For paratha dough
- 2 cup flour -- whole wheat, or all purpose
- warm water
- 1 tbsp oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder (optional)
- 2 large bowls
- potato masher
- rolling pin
- flour to dust
- food processor with dough blade (optional)
- ghee, oil, or butter
- tava, griddle, or skillet
Prepare the Stuffing
- Peel the boiled potatoes.
- Place the skinned potatoes in a large bowl.
- Use a kid-friendly knife to cut each potato into 4 pieces.
- Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Kids love to use their hands for this part, too!
- Mix in salt, pepper, cilantro, and spices.
Knead the Dough
- Kids can help measure the ingredients.
- Put dry ingredients in the food processor with dough blade or bowl (if kneading by hand). Mix.
- Add oil.
- Add water a few tablespoons at a time, pulsing or mixing each time until the dough forms into one large ball that is firm.
- Use the potato stuffing to make fist-size balls.
For adults (or older children):
- Form a ball from a piece of dough that is double the size of the potato ball.
- Roll out the dough so it is about six inches in diameter. Dust with flour to prevent sticking.
- Spread ½ tsp of ghee on the rolled out dough, and place stuffing ball on top.
- Enclose the stuffing by bringing the edges of the rolled out dough together in the center.
- Very gently roll out the paratha until it is about ⅓ inch thick.
- Place on a heated griddle, skillet, or thava.
- Flip when each side begins to brown. Cook both sides evenly until crispy.
- Serve warm topped with butter. Many kids love dipping aloo paratha in yogurt, too!