Cooking together and encouraging children to take part in choosing, preparing and cooking simple meals can help them in unexpected ways. But be warned - once those little fingers get stuck in, all promises to keep the kitchen clean and tidy go out the window!
So, how can cooking with your child be a fun process, a great learning opportunity, a brilliant way to explore new foods, and not turn the kitchen into a complete mess?
How CBeebies can help
Whether you’re a novice or consider yourself a bit of a gourmet chef, you need look no further than two great CBeebies programmes - Big Cook Little Cook and I Can Cook - for culinary inspiration.
Both programmes have fun step-by-step planning and preparation of delicious dishes and tasty treats. (Remember to check out the cooking part of the ‘Make & Colour’ section of the CBeebies website for lots of yummy ideas!)
Big Cook Little Cook makes healthy eating an enjoyable experience for children. It encourages budding young chefs to have a go at cooking and to try out new ingredients.
And in each episode of I Can Cook, presenter Katy brings the whole learning-to-cook experience to life for a group of young helpers. The children learn some simple recipes as well as some kitchen/cookery skills and habits – such as how to mix, stir and sift ingredients, and how to wash your hands before starting to prepare food.
How to make a magic moment
Magic memories of helping mum, dad or carer in the kitchen will last forever. There’s something about the closeness of contact. For example, talking about weighing out the flour together (not to mention the benefit of bringing numbers and weight into the ‘here and now’) plus, the anticipation of what the meal (or perhaps cake) will turn out like. Then, there’s the reading of the recipe together - making sure you have both followed the instructions correctly (now that’s real motivation to read!).
There’s no doubt that the secret to success for the whole experience not ending up in a disastrous messy kitchen and two ‘grumpy cooks’, lies in the planning. Try having old newspapers at the ready to cover anything and everything which can easily be scooped up afterwards, old baggy shirts to cover the young cook, big bowls for stirring (reduces the splashing effect!) and plastic covers at the ready for recipe books. Then, once it is all over, have your young cook take part in the cleaning up too.
Are there any other benefits?
Magic memories of helping a parent or carer in the kitchen will last forever. There’s something about the closeness of contact.
Remember to talk about weighing out the ingredients together (mention numbers and weight) and also build on the anticipation of what the dish will turn out like (what will it smell and taste like?). Then, there’s the reading of the recipe together - make sure you have both followed the instructions correctly (now that’s real motivation to practise those reading skills!).
The secret to success lies in the planning. You can try to avoid having a messy kitchen - and two grumpy cooks - by having old newspapers to cover work surfaces, old baggy shirts/aprons to cover your clothes, big bowls for stirring (reduces the splashing effect!) and plastic covers to prevent recipe books from getting spoiled.