Cooking with Kids Builds a Strong Mind and Body
Head Start encourages everyone to learn how to make informed food choices and develop eating and activity habits that support both children and families! In celebration of National Nutrition Month, NHSA invited board-certified pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando to share five reasons why cooking with kids is a great investment in the health of the whole child and the whole family.
Helping kids learn to love nutritious food is one of the main ways we can help our children reach their full potential. For parents, the barriers to raising a child that eats a healthy diet may seem overwhelming. Access to affordable food and the time and knowledge to prepare it do not always seem within reach. Cooking with kids is one simple activity that parents can commit to that will make raising a healthy, happy child more fun, and can help a child’s development and confidence, too.
Here are five reasons why cooking with kids is a great investment in the health of the whole child and the whole family:
- Cooking together creates mindfulness. When kids learn to cook, they are learning to use all of their senses to appreciate food. As we are preparing foods, we can take time to appreciate the beauty of a shiny red pepper as we cut it, how fragrant an orange skin is when we peel it, or how bumpy the top of a head of broccoli is when we wash it. That mindful appreciation can also be applied to the mealtime, when we find time to enjoy family connections.
- Cooking helps children to be creative. When we cook with children we are showing them that they can add their own unique spin to a recipe and come up with ideas that others will love. Not all of their creations may be family favorites, but it can be fun to try new things. Dr. Yum’s Meal-O-Matic is a great tool that helps families customize their own recipes based on the foods you have available, and can be a fun way to get creative in the kitchen with a yummy result.
- Cooking with children gives them confidence. As kids start to get better in the kitchen by helping you and then learning to do things independently, they gain confidence in this new skill. Our kids grow up far too fast and before you know it, their “kitchen confidence” as a kid will go miles to help them be self-sufficient as a young adult, with valuable skills to prepare meals for themselves.
- Cooking as a family helps a child’s development. The kitchen is the ultimate classroom where science, math, language, and motor skills can come to life. Practice counting while you stir, measure, or sort foods to encourage an understanding of math and build fine and gross motor skills. After chopping, plop ends of the green onions into water to watch roots grow. Find fun new words to describe the way foods look, feel, taste, smell, and even sound when we prepare them. The lessons are endless.
- Cooking helps children appreciate healthy food. There are numerous studies that show that when children get involved in cooking, they become healthier eaters. Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure is a cooking and nutrition program for preschoolers in the classroom and was written by a team of experts at the Dr. Yum Project. Our research of 400 preschool-aged children and experience with many hundreds more shows that after just nine lessons students enjoy food more, refuse food less, are more interested in trying foods, eat a wider variety of foods, and look forward to mealtimes more!
Want to learn more? Join NHSA, Dr. Fernando, and The Dr. Yum Project team for our next webinar, Parenting Around Food: Concepts to Raise Healthy Kids at Mealtimes and Beyond or visit doctoryum.org for more about ways to enjoy cooking with kids, including tons of family-friendly recipes.