After a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is wrangle your kids while cooking a meal.  What’s the solution?  Include those kids in the meal-making process.  No matter their ages, your children can have a real impact on the outcome of dinner.  There are so many reasons to include your kids in the kitchen.  Take a look at eight of the best reasons below.

1. Spend Quality Time Together

Perhaps the most obvious reason to cook with your kids is to spend time together.  While you slice and dice, it’s only natural that you and your kids chat about your day.  Younger children will love the one-on-one time with you, while older kids might find that this is an opportunity to let their guard down and have a safe space to communicate with you.  This provides a great chance to really connect with your kids on a regular, on-going basis.  These opportunities seem fewer and farther between in today’s culture of technology, never-ending after school activities, and the constant go, go, go.  Creating a setting in which to spend some actual, meaningful time with family is more critical than ever.  Cooking with your kids fits that need perfectly.

2. Help in the Kitchen

Another obvious reason to cook with your kids is to get some help in the kitchen!  Some people can come home and whip up a gourmet meal in less time than it takes others to figure out what to make.  For the rest of us, getting a little help in the kitchen is a wonderful gift.  It might be difficult to think of ideas for what your kids can actually do in the kitchen and be safe while doing it.  Here is a handy guide for you to use.

Preschoolers (about 2-4)

Stirring Ingredients: Younger kids can stir all kinds of ingredients.  If you are baking, stirring the dry ingredients is ideal.  Wet ingredients are fine as long as they are not hot.  Just remember, it might be a bit messy!

Washing Fruits and Vegetables: Teach your kids how to properly wash fruits and vegetables while they learn the names of each type of produce. 

Sprinkling Seasonings and Spices: Sugar, salt, pepper, or any other seasonings you add to your meal can be sprinkled on by your tot.  If they need to be measured, you do the measuring, and then hand it over.  Again, be wary of temperatures that may harm your little one.

School Aged Children (about 5-8)

Cutting Soft Ingredients: Using a butter knife, kids can cut various soft ingredients, such as cream cheese, dough, and many types of fruit.

Kneading: Kneading and rolling dough is hard work!  Let your kiddo help you out by starting the process, though you may need to finish it up.

Preparing Fruits and Vegetables: Picking off leaves, snapping beans, or shucking corn can all be completed by your helpers.

Pre-teens (about 9-12)

Cutting: By this age, kids have the dexterity to use a small knife, though be sure to talk about proper usage and knife safety before handing over a blade.

Preparing Pans: Greasing or lining a pan for baked goods or other dishes is an easy task pre-teens.

Setting the Table: Have your kids set the table.  You might even teach them the “proper” way a table is set.

Teenagers (13 and up)

Most things can be done in the kitchen at this age, if proper procedures have been taught.  Kids should never attempt a new task unsupervised.  Teens can even prepare an entire meal.  Put them into the meal preparation rotation!

3. Kids are Curious

Kids learn in a variety of ways, but one of the best ways to learn is by using the senses.  Cooking is perfect for this.  Think about all the senses you use while cooking a meal.  The dough squishing between your fingers.  The crackle pops of frying bacon.  The aroma of freshly baked cookies.  The pristine beauty of a perfectly set dinner table.  That first scrumptious bite of your favorite food.

Kids love to be in the kitchen because they get to use all of these senses in a variety of ways.  They are socurious about what they are smelling, hearing, tasting, feeling, or seeing.  By including them in what is going on, they get to find out about the source of what’s tingling their senses.  Use this curiosity to your advantage.  Since kids are more likely to eat food they’ve helped to prepare, introduce them to new foods, new recipes, and even new cultures.  By exposing them to many different food choices, you have given them new opportunities to explore their curiosity.

4. Reinforce Math Skills

Cooking can provide a fun way to reinforce math skills, especially for those who may not excel in math.  Kids who are good at math will enjoy putting their skills to work.  Counting, weighing, and measuring are just a few of the math skills needed when cooking.  Sometimes we need less food, so we make half of a recipe.  Inversely, we might need more food than a recipe calls for, so we double it.  Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are common operations when cooking.  Learning to manipulate fractions, because the right measuring spoon is always missing, is a must.  Estimating cost, portions, or time might be needed, as well. 

Using mathematics in a real-life environment can help solidify many of the math concepts some kiddos might be struggling with.  Having a finished product you can eat doesn’t hurt, either!

5. Science Experiments Before Their Very Eyes

If your kids love science, then get them in the kitchen!  The science of cooking, or food science, is a form all its own.  Mostly, cooking is physics and chemistry, but if your little one hasn’t gotten that far along in school yet, he or she will still certainly understand what’s going on.  Put simply, physics is the study of matter, and chemistry studies how that matter changes forms.  For instance, baking a cake mixes many different ingredients, which become wet.  When heat is applied, its form changes, into something quite delicious!

Following a recipe is much like following the scientific method in a science experiment.  Think about it.  Your ingredients are your materials, the instructions are the procedures, and the outcome is reliant on the variables (such as temperature) that were introduced into the process.  If you measured an ingredient incorrectly, the outcome might be that the food tastes bad, didn’t cook properly, or simply falls apart!  How’s that for science?

To promote the idea of science in the kitchen, have your lab partner keep a record of what went well and what went wrong while cooking.  Taking notes could be an invaluable tool in teaching your kids how to correct mistakes without lecturing them.

6. Lay the Groundwork for Future Skills and Choices

One goal that most parents have is to teach their kids to be productive adults.  One way to help accomplish this goal is to cook with your kids.  When kids are engaged in cooking activities, they are exposed to a variety of foods in a positive way.  These positive associations with food are paramount in making nutritious food choices in the future.  Kids find out what they like, what they don’t like, and perhaps surprisingly a few foods that they grow to like.

Time in the kitchen teaches kids how to plan meals and follow recipes.  They can learn what works and what doesn’t with your help and supervision, providing guidance along the way.  Learning basic cooking skills at home can mean the difference between having a college kid living off of Ramen, or one who can create a healthy, nutritious diet.

7. Independence

Cooking with your kids provides them an ideal environment to practice their independence.  Each time they successfully complete a task, they become more confident.  If you continue to provide opportunities, they continue to succeed, and they will soon become empowered.  Be sure to encourage your children, especially when they make mistakes.  Let them know that they can do it, they can be successful, and that they can be a wonderful asset in the kitchen.  As their confidence builds, so will their success.  Eventually, they will master each of the skills that you teach them.  Who knows, your little chef may do so well and become so confident that he or she wants to open a small business!

There are very few activities that can provide as many benefits as cooking with your kids can.  Between the quality time spent with your family, the skills and lessons taught, and the independence that it can foster, including your kids in the kitchen can be a life-changing experience, for both you and your children.  It can help them become more self-reliant, independent adults. Know that your kitchen might end up a little messier, dinner might take a little longer, but you and your kids will be better off for it. 

8. It Leads to Other Skills

A practical way that cooking skills can further develop your children in other areas is that they can learn about business through cooking. Using a Boss Club entrepreneurship kit such as homemade dog treats, gourmet cake pops, or luxury bath bombs can help your kids use the skills you taught them into the kitchen and turn it into a business and learning opportunity. If you child has enjoyed time with you in the kitchen, consider getting them a Boss Club business kit to turn their oven skills into an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of business!