Little Ones Can Cook Too

“Cooking for children is not about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It is about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.” – Julia Child. Indeed, cooking is a beautiful experience – a harmony of the three ingredients mentioned by Ms Child and with a dash of unique aromas and tongue-tingling food.

The age of two to ten is a phase of curiosity and learning new things from external experiences. Sensorial experiences rule this age range – taste, smell, vision, hearing, and touch. Of these, taste plays a dominant role in a child’s life. It is time for the child is exploring smells, tastebuds, and flavours. Once children cross four years, their tastebuds start becoming distinctive as well. It is the “my favourite food is this” phase. You will often be hearing about foods they love at this time. 

Have you thought about teaching your children cooking? Wait, most of you will gasp, I am sure, when I say this. Many of you may be thinking: “How can we teach children cooking? Aren’t they too young to learn it? Fire is dangerous, and so are hot vessels”. Well, as they say, you can never be too old or young to learn cooking. You can start with basics (minus knives, sharp objects, or fire). Yes, you can teach them how to do fireless cooking. Begin teaching basics at home, like a topping for a sandwich, encouraging them to spread the filling inside it or sprinkling from the herbs bottle (of course, all this with supervision), and applying cheese on a loaf of bread or paratha. There are many ways to introduce children to cooking at home. 

Just like home is a hearth for love, hopes, and dreams, a school is a hearth for beautiful memories and life skills. What you learn in school is irreplaceable and is for life. For example, cooking is one of the best life skills we can ever gift our children. They say you can survive anywhere in the world once you learn how to cook. 

There have been a lot of gender stereotypes surrounding cooking for years too. For instance, at home, it is a girl’s domain to cook in the kitchen, and boys need not learn to cook since a wife will cook for them in the future. Most of these myths are no longer there, but we still have a long way to go. 

Schools can do a lot to bust these myths by adding cooking to their curriculum. This way, all children can learn this valuable life skill. Have you imagined the school syllabus to have cooking as a formal subject? The higher classes in some schools in India have it as a part of life skills rather than as a separate subject. Mostly, it is only vocational schools in India that teach cooking separately as a subject. Mainstream schools do not do the same, though. 

1. Activates all senses 

While cooking, one needs to use all sense organs – eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin. Children will learn how to focus and concentrate on the food being cooked. Once cooking is done, they can also taste and judge for themselves if the cooked food is good or not. 

2. Makes theory practical 

Whatever the children learn at school – Maths, Science, English, and other subjects, can be applied to cooking. For instance, cooking entails a lot of precision in ingredients, and Math concepts can be applied to learn the quantities and volume of components used in a dish. In addition, children can learn to apply scientific concepts to learn more about the combination of certain ingredients and the flavours they will produce. 

3. History, values & culture 

Schools can initiate this by telling children how some dishes originated and their backgrounds. Stories will activate the interest, stimulate children’s imagination, and interest them in cooking.

4. Explore 

While teaching different types of cuisine, a child can develop an interest in tasting new foods and flavours. Many picky or selective eaters start wanting to learn cooking too.

5. Teamwork & skills 

Assigning responsibilities to each child, from adding ingredients, measuring them and mixing in a bowl, and even tasting the dish, can go a long way in children learning to cook. Children learn to cooperate better to make the meals a success. Lesser conflicts are seen when it is a team working together.

6. Builds positive food memories 

School life can be colourful and offbeat thanks to cooking classes and experiments in the kitchen. Children will have fond memories to look back at. Pictures were taken while cooking can be memoirs for both parents and children. Teachers, in particular, can beam in pride at having taught a valuable life survival skill.

7. Builds self-confidence & self-esteem 

It is a feel-good experience for children who make dishes independently or in a group. Confidence levels go up, and children also improve their focus in other subjects. They become more independent and help out their parents better too.

8. Correlation skills improve 

Learning to cook ensures children can link two different concepts better. For instance, while making a dish, they can correlate to an idea they are learning in history – a particular dish can remind them of a historical period and the characters who ate it. 

9. Spelling boosters 

Names of recipes and ingredients can add to their vocabulary. Encouraging them to write or record recipes in notebooks or diaries will help them remember the dish better.

10. Kitchen safety & rules 

Lastly, all of the above points will work only if the child is taught how to handle each kitchen tool in the kitchen effectively. Then, teachers can guide safety measures. This can go a long way in empowering children to tackle emergencies at home and outside effectively.

Parents and teachers, trust me, you will be amazed when you see these tiny kids cook you unique dishes. A message to all the children, “learn how to cook and try out new recipes. It is okay to make missteps but do learn from them as well. Make the kitchen your fun zone and help your parents and siblings! Enjoy new flavours and aromas. Happy Cooking“.

She is a quirky writer/photographer/closet poet and singer who has traversed a non-conventional path. As a former entertainment journalist who has worked in print and online media for a decade, Priya loves talking to people and writing their unspoken stories.

She is a single parent of a 8-year-old son settled in Tamil Nadu and a Content Consultant/ Communications-PR Manager. She is also an informal mentor to parents in her local parenting network. She dreams of being an author of a book and maybe the scriptwriter of a film someday!

Follow Priya Rajendran

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