Standing on a chair tucked safely into the corner of the kitchen, I enthusiastically stirred the cookie dough as my beloved great-grandmother added ingredients. Together we made messes, laughed, cleaned up and enjoyed the warm delicious treats we created. To this day, I still think about her every time I bake and treasure the memories as the best present she gave me.
Entering the busy holiday season, it is important to remember that shared experiences are often the best gifts to give children. One great way to spend time with your family is by getting into the kitchen to cook together for the holidays or even on a regular basis. Aside from the obvious bonding that occurs, children improve math and fine motor skills as they measure and prepare ingredients and they learn how to cooperate and work as a team. They learn cause and effect as items change state or shape as they bake. Planning and shopping for meals can give parents a platform to discuss healthy eating. Some kids will even begin to appreciate new foods and be less picky! Last but not least, it’s fun to create dishes that can spark their imagination and give them a sense of pride when shared with loved ones. Whether it’s pushing the button on the salad spinner or sautéing finely mandolined vegetables, cooking is exciting for chefs of all ages!
Ready to give it a try? To get started, use this guide to determine tasks appropriate for your child based on their age. If you think they’ll need more motivation to get excited and involved, it might be fun for them to have an apron or their own safe knives or other utensils! For inspiration, the New York Times has a collection of family-friendly recipes in their “Kids in the Kitchen” series. Maybe by the holidays, your junior chefs can surprise guests with their skills and creations! In my family, Thanksgiving was always a huge cooking celebration as my great-grandma supervised three generations of chefs in the kitchen and I remain thankful for those meals and memories! If you can’t find an appropriate chef’s hat, don’t worry, it turns out that a shower cap works well too (or at least it did in the 80s!)
Jacqueline Phillips, MD, November 15, 2021