Parents’ guide: Cooking with young children – why, how and handy tips



Cooking is a fundamental life skill. Everyone should know how to cook and it’s never too early to start!


You probably learnt how to cook by observing your parents and helping out, but with our lives becoming busier this isn’t so much the case anymore for our little ones.


So, to introduce this early on, nurseries have started to cook with children and we’re all encouraging you, the parents, to do the same when you have the time at home.


Why cooking?


There are more benefits of cooking than you may think! Did you know one cooking activity can promote all areas of the early year’s foundation stage (click here to find out more).


And because children enjoy it so much, they are not even aware they are learning about numbers or developing skills. Let’s take a look at some examples:


Physical skills

Practising hand-eye coordination, strengthening their grip and more! These are developed as they learn to hold kitchen tools like spoons, peelers and more.


Maths

Children will have to count spoons, weigh ingredients, calculate how many portions those will make, etc.


Emotional development

Children will gain confidence as they help out with more ‘adult’ tasks. It’s also a great bonding opportunity.


Language and communication

Especially in the nursery, they will often discuss what they are seeing or doing, whether they’re mixing, watching dough rise or chopping carrots.


As well as this, it’s also a sensory experience engaging all five senses making it a more memorable experience and truly engaging your little one (click here to find out more about why sensory play is important).


Cooking also gives children knowledge about food, where it comes from and what is healthy and unhealthy. Not only giving them a better understanding of the world around them but also helping them learn valuable life skills.



What’s cooking in nurseries like?


Our wonderful practitioners will always take account of your little one’s skill and age before cooking or baking with them. They also ensure to cook in small groups to be more involved, making sure children are following instructions safely.


At our nurseries, we think teaching your little ones to use tools is important, so our practitioners gradually introduce kitchen tools like peelers and knives, teaching the children how to use these properly and safely.


At our nurseries, we make a range of awesome snacks from cupcakes to mini-pizzas!



Cooking at home


Finding the time to cook with your little one at home can be difficult but we highly recommend it not just for the learning but also because it’s a great bonding opportunity.


To help you get cooking at home here are some handy tips:


· Expect a mess – making a mess = making memories! But it’s worth considering placing an old sheet or tablecloth on the floor as well as dressing yourself and your little one in something that you don’t mind getting ruined.


· Discuss food hygiene – this involved tying back hair, washing hands, wiping surfaces, and not licking fingers where raw ingredients are used. This will set up realistic expectations and help your child learn more about the cooking process.


· Have your little one do the bulk of the work – get them to weigh up ingredients (whilst discussing where they come from). Teach them to chop and peel safely, have them mix batters– most things you do they can also have a go at!


· Let your child explore! It’s more about the process than the final product.


Allow your child to feel and play with the ingredients where possible, sensory play will make things more fun and a good opportunity to discuss the different foods and kitchen tools.


· It’s meant to be fun! Does it matter if they end up playing with some water instead of washing a bowl? Nah!


It’s all about bonding and having a good time rather than rushing to prepare a meal. Take your time together and allow yourselves to get distracted – times like this will make for the best memories.


Finally, some additional resources


CBeebies ‘I Can Cook’ – click here to check it out.


BBC GoodFood child-friendly collections:

Click here for baking recipes

Click here for cooking recipes

Click here for snack recipes


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