Why Every Child Should Learn to Cook

How many times has your child asked you, “What’s for dinner?” Probably several times this week alone. Kids are constantly hungry and are usually foraging through the pantry for something to tide them over until it’s time for dinner. Wouldn’t you love to ask them, “What’s for dinner?” Then teach your children to cook a real meal!

Whether you’re an avid home chef who adores discovering new recipes or a reluctant cook who only dons a cooking apron under duress, teaching your kids to cook is an essential skill that will benefit them for life.

While teens may know how to boil water to make a packet of noodles or pop a bag of popcorn in the microwave, they are just a few short years away from becoming independent adults. When they are paying their own way, and realise how expensive—and unhealthy—it is to eat out and order a meal through a delivery service, they will appreciate knowing how to plan a meal, shop for the ingredients and cook a healthy, nutritious dinner.

There are many benefits for kids who know how to cook. They eat fewer fast-food meals and eat more vegetables. Studies have shown that adolescents who cook have fewer incidences of depression. Preparing meals for themselves and their families also boosts their self-esteem. And as they get in the habit of cooking at home, they will learn to budget and save money—and not rely on expensive take-out for their evening meal when they move out on their own.

Although kids underfoot in the kitchen can be time-consuming and annoying, with time and patience you can train up a sous chef to help you out and actually make your life easier. See it as a long-term investment.

Everybody needs to eat, and the benefits of eating balanced nutritious meals go beyond helping to maintain a healthy weight and boosting moods and energy levels. Imparting knowledge of nutrition is setting up good habits for life.

There are many other benefits to teaching kids how to cook healthy meals, the least of which is one night a week they can practice on the family while you kick back.

Cooking and eating is also a brilliant way to connect with family and friends which is known to help alleviate feelings of social isolation. Wondering how to get started? The following are some top tips on moving your teaching to the kitchen.

Take a Cooking Class

Community colleges offer affordable cooking classes to give your teen a hands-on educational cooking experience. Parents can even take the classes with their teen, offering a great opportunity to spend more time together. There is usually something for everyone with class times in the evening or on weekends.

If busy schedules prevent you from enrolling in live classes, there are several online, on-demand courses you can take, ranging from kitchen basics to baking, cake decorating and classes focused on specific types of cuisines, such as Thai or vegetarian.

Your child may discover that this life skill is actually a life passion and turn cooking into a career.  

Get in the Kitchen with Your Kids

Teens have their own lives and interests and it becomes increasingly harder to spend quality time with them as they get older, but it’s still important for parents to be actively involved during these impressionable years. A great way to do that is to make family dinner together.

Spending time together in the kitchen opens the lines of communication, offering opportunities for bonding and chatting with your kids at a time when they are more relaxed and willing to be engaged.  And, to help keep your kids interested, search for new recipes together or have your kids pick ones they would like to try. This also helps your kids learn about world cuisines and cultures and can open them up to trying new food and learning more complicated cooking techniques.  

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Many kids may not understand the real cost of keeping food stocked in the pantry with all the right ingredients. Teaching kids to cook provides an opportunity to also teach them about planning, grocery shopping and budgeting.

Take your children to the grocery store with you to shop for the ingredients. If they are trying a new recipe, have them make the list of ingredients and search the aisles for what they need. It sounds so simple, but grocery shopping is an essential life skill too. This is an opportunity to help them make decisions about buying things on sale, reading labels, looking at expiration dates, choosing good produce and deciding which brands to buy.

Spend some time with them explaining how you make your choices in the grocery store so that when they are on their own, they can make choices at the store that meet their food needs and budgets.

Teaching your kids to cook lays the foundation for building healthy habits. With their new cooking skills and confidence in the kitchen, soon they may be asking you, “What would you like me to cook for dinner tonight?”