No need to pretend that teaching kids to cook is an easy task. You need the patience of a saint. But it is worth it, as teaching kids to cook not only arms them with a life-long skill, but it also instils healthy eating habits and does a world of good for bonding.
Time invested in teaching children to cook is time well spent, says Durban mommy of three and food blogger Shaistah Khan.
In the same way her mother and grandmother taught her as a little girl, she now uses the kitchen as a perfect place for creating lasting bonds with her own children, Eesa, Yusuf and Aminah.
“It strengthens your relationship because you are able to communicate and speak. You learn to feel comfortable with this little person and they learn to feel comfortable with you.
“It is not all about the skill of cooking; it is about building a relationship.”
The kitchen does not discriminate
Khan is also on a mission to raise her sons never to subscribe to age-old gender roles.
“I want to raise capable humans.”
Cooking with her boys has also allowed her to see a gentler side to them. “I always think of them as being rough and tough, but it also shows me that they can be nurturing as well.
“One day my sons are each going to marry someone’s daughter and they need to be able to look after their family – not only to provide but to feed, to nurture and to do all these things.”
Bonding and learning
Not only does cooking with kiddies create opportunities for quiet moments to bond with your youngster, but it also offers plenty other benefits. These include boosting confidence, teaching maths and science and imparting wisdom about other cultures, says Eastern Cape mother of two Zola James.
James is the owner of Emarikeni in Cradock, a corner market where she sells fresh produce, baked goods, food, and preservatives. “I have a little boy who loves to explore in the kitchen. You would be surprised at how 4- to 5-year-olds can listen and take instructions. They try to get the measurements right themselves and we let them do that.”
Did you know?
There are many nutritious ingredients that can be added raw into your child’s favourite meals and snacks, enhancing the nutrient content, but also helping to improve the texture and flavour, says celebrity dietician, Andrea du Plessis.
Examples include oat bran. This ingredient can add texture into porridges, smoothies, smoothie bowls, muffins, rusks and even soups, as it is a thickening agent.
“Best thing is that the flavour is neutral, so it can be combined with varied ingredients without interfering with the taste or flavour profile of the final dish.”
What is the benefit?
Oat bran helps to reduce the GI (glycaemic index) value of a food, making it more suitable for diabetics and people who are sensitive to high-glucose foods. The oat bran helps delay the breakdown of ingredients into simple sugars, thereby reducing the risk of spikes in blood glucose after consuming a meal or snack. It is also beneficial for the digestive system and as an added benefit, it can help improve cholesterol levels.
But how do you get it right?
James advises that you do not underestimate a child’s eagerness when they are on a mission to learn a new skill. “Kids are good listeners. This doesn’t mean you must just bark out orders also, you need to listen to them too.”
“Kids are curious, and communication is not one-sided. listen and be attentive.”
The joy is worth the patience. “They become so proud; their little faces just light up when they have done something themselves. Cooking also makes them feel useful and helpful around the household.”
James has recently started offering baking classes to kids between four and twelve in her place of business.
She has some advice for parents
Children aged 3-5: James advises first teaching these little ones how important it is to wash produce and use clean utensils. You can also task your little one with mixing easy batter and wiping table tops. No sharp utensils yet. Be patient, she says.
Children aged 6–7: Stress the importance of food safety. Your child can peel, break eggs into a bowl and scoop avocados after they have been cut by you, the grown-up. “Make them feel like they are adding value.”
Children aged 8-9: They are a little more mature and should be taught about kitchen cleanliness. They can also open cans, beat eggs and even juice lemons. Remember to give praise for tasks completed, no matter how small.
Children aged 10-12: They may work independently with a little hovering. They can boil pasta, bake goods in the oven and slice and chop veggies. You are not a helicopter, so not too much hovering. Give them a little autonomy and room to make mistakes. If they do make mistakes, show them how to do it right – it gives them a little confidence.