Being a mother is my favorite thing in the world. My children inspire me to be better, they love me more than I deserve, and they are my greatest joy.
But some days are easier than others, true?
Being a good mother is not a walk in the park.
When I think of all the things I wish to teach my children during their short burst of life within the walls of our home, I struggle with self-doubt.
Raising tiny humans is no small feat.
And like any mother, I worry constantly whether the life-lessons I’m teaching them are the important ones.
With so many wonderful activities, how do you choose what is BEST for your family??
There are so many paths to choose: after-school activities, music lessons, sports, church attendance, school projects, and more! It’s nearly impossible to fit in all the good stuff without losing our minds!
So how can we narrow down which activities will help them achieve their greatest potential? This question haunts me every day as I struggle to sum up their young years to just a few important life lessons.
I have a solution that will help you!
After many sleepless nights and daily focused prayer, I have made huge strides in answering this question.
And while the answer WILL vary from family to family, I believe I have found a solution that will satisfy all of your mothering desires and help to lead your children on a path of discovery and growth into adulthood.
Did you know that nowadays, families are eating around the dinner table together less and less?
A poll by NRP reveals that despite families ranking a family meal as a high priority, a whopping half of all children live in a home where, on a given night, families don’t sit down together to share a meal.
This sad state-of-affairs is directly affecting our children’s mental health, relationships, school grades, and even their waistlines. Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1970!
Eat Together + Cook Together = Grow Together
Without a doubt, eating together as a family nourishes the body, the mind, and the soul. In fact, it provides *nourishment* for the rest of their lives!
But what if you could take that result and multiply it by a hundred?!
I have discovered that this is what teaching your kids to cook will do! I’d like to share with you some crucial reasons why bringing your kids into the kitchen to cook and meal prep can benefit your child. Your entire family will benefit from this approach to cooking family dinners!
Teaching your child to cook has so many amazing benefits.
We found that by including our kids in the planning and preparation of our family dinners, we’ve felt greater moments of peace in our home.
Simply put, our children’s moods have improved. And our vision for a brighter future as a family has been realized, all because our target has been re-focused on what is most important.
Here are 5 reasons you need to start NOW!
With this new discovery, I’m dying to share 5 simple, but important, reasons I know your family will be blessed by teaching your kids to cook too!
#1-Learning to cook will boost your child’s confidence
Ever notice how your kids love to show-off? Whether it’s doing a cartwheel in the living room or racing to finish their spaghetti the fastest, kids LOVE to show off their skills.
My son, Dylan, is no exception. He’s the fourth in our line-up, and he’s always ready to perform.
But this wasn’t always the case.
Self-doubt is emotionally crippling, especially for kids.
A few years ago when he was in kindergarten, Dylan struggled with loads of self-doubt and uncertainty. Almost daily, he would struggle with his homework, saying “I’m not smart” or “I can’t do this, it’s too hard”.
To the point where I worried. A LOT. His lack of confidence was so disturbing, I just knew I had to do something.
Self-doubt and negative self-talk are very damaging to the mind. Sadly, enough negative thoughts about your abilities can, over time, have a lasting effect. An article from Huffpost reports how self-doubt will crush your ambitions and prevent you from achieving your full potential.
One of the actions suggested for combating this depressing psychological response is to “counteract the negative” by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. One way to do this is to list off your strengths and achievements. This idea sounds easy enough to implement, but would it work for my five-year-old?
I yearn for my kids to realize their enormous potential!
As a mother, one of my greatest parenting goals is to arm my children with all of the skills they need to succeed in life. And an excellent self-esteem is at the top of the list!
So when this idea of having my kids plan meals and help in the kitchen was born, and we implemented some simple steps, I was ecstatic with the results.
One key ingredient to building your child’s self-esteem in the kitchen is to provide simple directions with easy-to-implement steps. As their confidence increases, you can provide opportunities to level-up their skills. And of course, ALWAYS be generous with a happy smile and positive feedback!
It may take time, but it’s SO worth it.
Dylan is slowly but surely developing a sense of confidence in the kitchen. He now loves to receive praise for his dinner creations and beams with every tasty compliment.
I can’t think of a better way to infuse a child’s mind with confidence than to provide basic directions. Then encourage them to use their kid-devised creativity to produce something delicious.
Here are more ways cooking builds confidence:
When you teach your kids to cook, you are also providing the perfect setting for:
- Improving essential math and reading skills as they learn to follow a recipe
- Learning to follow basic step-by-step directions to produce a scrumptious dish
- Instilling a desire for independence and adventure in the kitchen for years to come
When I allow my kids into the kitchen and give them a little free-rein, it’s always a surefire way to unleash their creativity and expose their inner Top Chef.
At dinnertime, our kitchen turns into a safe playground for food creation and presentation. Resulting in a yummy meal they get to share with the rest of the family.
#2-Cooking is an important and necessary life skill
What’s that old proverb? — “Give a man to fish and he’ll eat for a day. But teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime” -Unknown
I don’t know about you, but as much as I love my children, I hope that when the time comes for them to live on their own, they will have the necessary life skills to survive without their momma’s home-cooking!
Over time, I have taken the liberty of modifying the above proverb to suit my needs.
“Cook a meal for your child and they’ll eat for a day. But teach them to cook and they’ll eat for a lifetime.”
You can quote me on that.
Each and every time I prepare a meal with my kids, I’m reminded of the awesome power and responsibility I have to prepare them for life on their own. And with every chop of the knife and whisk of the spoon, I can rest assured that we are heading in the right direction.
The American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, developed a theory that humans have a defined hierarchy of needs.
Each need is represented as a level on a pyramid; the most basic, physical needs at the bottom, and more complex needs at the top. Each level up becomes less and less about our physical needs and more about our psychological needs.
Like walking up a flight of stairs, each of us must have our basic needs met before stepping up–or achieving–the next level.
For example, your son wouldn’t be concerned with joining in a game of dodgeball at recess if he was more worried about falling and skinning his bare knees.
Likewise, your daughter wouldn’t be able to focus on passing her spelling test if her stomach was growling because she’d skipped breakfast in her rush to get to school on time.
Here is an image of Maslow’s pyramid for reference (source).
The reason I make this point is to say as humans, our bodies require food and good health every single day to develop and grow as necessary to achieve the ultimate physical and psychological well-being.
Bringing your kids into the kitchen is a sure-fire way to yield a healthy lifestyle that will ensure life-long habits.
Put plainly, healthy habits lead to self-actualization.
Maslow describes self-actualization as a “full realization of one’s potential.” When other, more pressing, needs at the base of the pyramid have been met, your child can focus his or her attention on the pinnacle-need of self-actualization.
Essentially, when a person can attain this peak-level of self-actualization they are ultimately thriving. By teaching your kids to cook, you are giving them the basic life skills they need to attain their full potential. What a cool thought!
Other not-so-obvious, but extremely important, life skills your child will master by learning to cook are:
Cooking with another person is fun, but it can also be a challenge. When you cook together regularly, your child will learn how to cooperate effectively and hone their communication skills.
Developing good teamwork skills will be an enormous benefit to your child during every season of their life.
Just like gaining confidence, your kids will learn to become independent when they practice basic food preparation skills in the kitchen. It’s exciting to witness this growth in your children as their aptitude for using cooking tools improves!
An aspect of meal preparation that is extremely difficult to master is the timing of meals coming together, hot and ready to serve, at the same time. Understanding this concept has been a work in progress for our family. But like any skill, practice makes perfect! As we learn and discover new ways of overcoming this challenge, I will keep you updated!
Many people that I talk with about teaching my kids to cook, show concern for kitchen safety: namely, knife safety, oven safety, and stovetop safety.
While I understand their concerns and do everything I can to prepare and protect my children, there is always a potential for accidents.
However, I’ve determined that by teaching my kids within the safety of our home, with me by their side, they will be better prepared and have less vulnerability when they attempt to navigate the kitchen on their own someday.
A couple of years ago, if I had been asked how our menu planning and dinner preparation were going, I would’ve rolled my eyes. Staying on top of meal planning is not for the faint of heart! It takes thought, creativity, organization, flexibility, and patience.
But most of all, it takes accountability.
Teaching your kids to be responsible for preparing the family meal requires them to be accountable for every aspect of dinner prep. This is such an important skill everyone should develop early on in life.
#3-Involving your kids in the meal-making process will lead to better health
Kids are taste-testers. They will try to sample ANYTHING. They suck on rocks. They’ll eat dirt, fingernails, and boogers. So why-oh-why is it so difficult to get them to eat a scrumptious meal that has been lovingly prepared, set on a beautiful plate, and placed right in front of them?? Because they don’t know what’s good for them yet!
Did you know it takes approximately 8 *tastes* before your child will start to like a certain food?
In this study, children were repeatedly exposed, through hands-on cooking, to a handful of disliked fruits and vegetables for six weeks. The results of the study showed that after repeated taste exposures, children’s acceptance of certain foods can increase.
In another study, children who tasted a fruit or vegetable they disliked, eight or nine times, began liking them more.
Of course, you’ll have to try this on your own kids, but the experience in our home has proven this theory.
Set high standards for trying new foods.
One rule we have adopted in our home is the “thank-you-bite“.
As we pass each dish around the table, everyone fills their own plate. Of the dishes they don’t like, instead of just passing it along, they dish themselves one bite of the food, as if to say, “I don’t care for this, but thank you! I’ll have a bite.”
This has been an easy enough rule for my kids to “swallow” and has already achieved great success!
One of my daughters who previously despised potato salad and complained each time it was served, now LOVES it! She even includes it in her dinner menus on a regular basis. #winwin
Parents need to model good nutrition and eating habits.
This shouldn’t come as a shock, but when parents show a dislike for certain foods or have almost no variety in the ingredients they use, they are teaching their kids to be picky.
When you cook with your kids, BE BOLD!
If they see a purple carrot at the supermarket and ask what it is or what it tastes like, buy it!
As parents, we need to broaden our palates and show our kids just how easy (and harmless!) it is to try new foods. It may even surprise you how much you like it!
“You are what you eat”
Well, in a sense.
If you take your kids out for fast-food regularly, or you only offer snacks to eat in the car while running to ball practice every week, your family’s health WILL feel the effects.
By cooking at home, you can put your feet up and relax at the end of the day, knowing you have provided a fresh and nourishing meal for your kids.
When you eat at home, you get to set the stage with healthier ingredients. Pulling foods from your own pantry to make dinner means you wield control over what goes into your mouth. Nutrition labels are certainly helpful, but fresh ingredients are king. No, I did NOT say Burger King.
Bigger is not better when it comes to food.
In fact, with fast-food portion sizes being so out of control, cooking at home gives you an advantage in determining your family’s own healthy portion sizes.
While you’re cooking in the kitchen with your kids, make sure you discuss the concept of “eating until satisfied” -a method that has been largely ignored due to pre-determined portions being shoved in your face.
Lastly, if your kids have food allergies–whether extreme or not–you can teach them that they have control over the dishes they make in the kitchen.
Avoiding hazardous foods is easy-peasy when you cook with your own ingredients instead of scouring food labels or quizzing the waiter in the restaurant.
You kids will be more responsible with their food choices when they know what ingredients they can safely eat and how to safely prepare them.
Mental health is health too.
As I said before, learning to cook builds confidence and squelches negative self-talk. When your kids learn to cook they get to enjoy all of the benefits that skill has to offer, including improving their sense of self-worth.
When you are cooking with them, you can spend time boosting their esteem and lifting their spirits. See? Home cooking gives you good health in every aspect of your life!
#4-Cooking with your kids saves time and money
Oh, the irony in that statement. Can it really be true? I’d like to dive right into why teaching your kids to cook and help with dinner prep will ultimately save you money AND time.
Taking your family out to eat will drain your wallet.
We all know how expensive it can be to eat out, especially when you have a bunch of mouths to feed and tummies to fill. But do you know how much money you actually spend eating out compared to what it costs to prepare your own dinner?
According to Forbes, it is almost five times more expensive to order your meal from a restaurant than it is to cook at home. Likewise, if you’re using a meal kit service as a shortcut, it’s still almost three times as expensive as cooking from scratch.
“Many hands make light work.”
Growing up in a large family, the above saying is one I heard all the time; one that was passed down from generation to generation and pounded into my brain. The gist is this: if you have many helpers working together to get a job done, it will be completed quickly and effectively with minimal effort. Capeesh?
The same thing works for preparing dinner.
Now let’s apply that same principle to the kitchen setting. If a mom rangles an extra set of hands into the kitchen–whether large or small–to help with chopping, mashing, rinsing, whisking, grating or stirring, they are bound to make “light work” of their dinner prep.
This time-saving approach may take a few rounds to get right. But I promise when your kids learn how to do basic dinner prep in the kitchen, your meals will land on the table in record time.
Cook a meal and check off quality-time at the same time!
Do you harbor mom-guilt from not spending enough time with your kids each day?
Well, look no further than your own kitchen! Cook a meal and check off quality time at the same time! Two birds with one stone, if you will.
Because spending time together doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be more than watching their favorite show. Because “couch time is not quality time,” people! That is, unless you’re reading a book together.
Meal planning will save your sanity.
Q. What does a chicken with its head cut-off look like?
A. A mom who has to run to the store for “one more thing” to get dinner on the table.
Sound familiar? When you cook with your kids, it’s necessary that you plan your meals ahead of time, and have all the items you need at hand. To put it plainly, you MUST plan your menu in advance. This preparation will reduce frustration at dinner time and save you time and your sanity.
Teach your kids how to make dinner-planning a priority and you will be teaching them great time-management skills as well.
#5-Bringing your kids into the kitchen immediately enhances family relationships
By far, one of my very favorite things that come from including my children in cooking and serving a meal to our family is the compliments they receive from one another. After every meal, it has become a thrilling tradition to applaud the chef for a job well-cooked. And my kids eat it up! Remember, ALL kids like to show off. And what better way to encourage a cooking performance than to compliment them on their successes or sympathize with their failures?
Compliments make the world go ’round.
This ping-pong of compliments is no longer an anomaly within our family dynamics. They give praise=they get praise. To my kids, it’s a simple math equation. To their mother, it’s music to my ears. What an awesome and rewarding feeling to hear that someone enjoys the meal you’ve created; especially when you work so hard for it.
If serving is caring, then cooking is a magnificent expression of love.
When kids are given regular opportunities to give service in meaningful and collaborative ways, miracles can happen. An article on HuffPost explains that “Giving to others fills us in so many ways. And even more so when it’s cooking because feeding fulfills a survival need. So our feeling of fulfillment comes not only from the act of giving but also the fact that we have ‘helped’ in some very primal way. We have given fuel.”
Service, especially in the form of cooking, is the perfect example of a win-win scenario. The person eating the meal is benefiting from it’s tasty and nutritious value. While the person preparing it has the advantage of eating the meal, and the payoff that comes from an altruistic act. Cooking for our loved ones creates a unique bond that can’t be recreated any other way.
Cooking together offers sensational dialogue opportunities.
One thing I’ve grown to look forward to is the extensive one-on-one time I get with each of my kids.
I am the first to hear Megan’s elaborate dreams. I get to laugh at Patrick’s corny jokes. Kate and I will sing all of our favorite broadway musical songs at the top of our lungs together. And I cheer Dylan on as he recounts every maneuver he made with the soccer ball at his recent game.
Cooking time is one of my favorite times. It gives me time to connect with my kids on a different level. We interact on their terms as we taste-test each and every dish, dessert, and drink they concoct.
Homecooked meals mean more fun around the table.
If you cook more meals at home, you will eat at the table as a family more; it’s a plain and simple truth.
But what you don’t realize is all the fun you’re missing if you don’t!
One of our family’s favorite pastimes is our dinnertime shenanigans. We love to start a game of “Would You Rather…” as we’re passing around caesar salad with homemade croutons and made-from-scratch chicken pot pie.
And my kids really ham it up with “Name That Tune” over a helping of pazookie and ice cream.
Sometimes our conversations get raw and tender when my kids openly share emotional challenges they’re dealing with. Or sometimes we touch on gospel principles from our personal scripture studies. I truly cherish these moments with my kids and look forward to them every single day.
Success in the family is all about teamwork!
I like to remind my kids that being part of a family means we all have to pull our weight.
For example, if dad doesn’t work hard to bring in an income, and mom doesn’t do the laundry or buy groceries, and the kids don’t pick up after themselves and do their assigned chores, then our household would begin to fall apart.
We need everyone pulling together to make *life* happen.
Likewise, cooking together requires working as a team. It takes good communication collaboration to make dinnertime a success. These are skills that your child will pick up on overtime, as you patiently coach them through the cooking process.
Learn more about your child, including taste preferences.
Cooking with your kids creates a parent-child bond that can’t be duplicated. And the more you know about your child, the more you grow to love them.
So when you cook with your kids, talk to them! Don’t know what their favorite foods are? Ask them? You may just discover yourself in the process.
When you do activities together, such as cooking, you will learn more about what makes them tick and you will strengthen your relationship in the process.
Get your kids in the kitchen and cook something up!
Now that we’ve dug deep and uncovered all the important and meaningful reasons you need to teach your kids to cook, don’t just take my word for it!
Grab your kids and sit down at the kitchen table together to map out a menu plan that will get them excited to cook with you.
Being a parent isn’t easy, and it never will be. But everything you do to prepare your children for their future and create a lasting relationship with them will always be worth it.