4 Reasons to Cook with Your Kids

4 Reasons to Cook with Your Children by Encourage Play

My son and I are sitting on the floor playing with blocks, passing the time on a rainy day. He wants to have a snack and he keeps talking about “ola bars” (which is his adorable 4 year old way of asking for granola bars)

I mentally go through the recipe in my head and check the cabinets to see if we have all the ingredients. Indeed we do. So I pull out the bowls, the ingredients and a spoon.

I add oats to the bowl. He takes the spoon and starts stirring furiously. The oats fly EVERYWHERE, on the table, on the chairs and on the floor. It’s super messy and we’ve only added in the first ingredient to our to “ola” bars.

So why do I feel the need to cook with my kids? I could have made the bars alone while he napped or while he played with something else. But I actually want to have this experience with him. Even though it can be frustrating, there are lots of good reasons to keep going.

We show them that everything isn’t perfect all the time

Some people are extremely talented in the kitchen and can make those perfect strawberry ladybugs or melted snowman cookies with a gaggle of children surrounding them in the kitchen. And, to those people, I say YOU ARE AWESOME and please make me a batch the next time.

I must confess that I am NOT one of these talented ladies. Sometimes things go well and the finished product looks awesome. Sometimes they don’t. Check out our gingerbread cookies for Santa from a couple of years ago.

Gingerbread cookies from Christmas Encourage Play

Dude, they don’t look great, but they were super tasty. And it started a tradition we’ve continued to love every December. When I cook with my kids, it’s never going to be perfect. My house isn’t perfect. Life isn’t perfect. And that’s okay.

We teach healthy habits

It’s the perfect opportunity to model healthy eating habits. If you want your child to try something new, get them involved in the making of it. They will automatically be more invested and willing to try it. Will they love it every single time? Nope! But they may surprise you with what they like.

For example, I tried kale chips a couple of years ago (because I’m obsessed with Pinterest and needed to give it a try) and my kids actually like them and ask for them all the time.

But, I can’t tell you how many other healthy Pinterest worthy recipes I’ve tried that they will not touch. Like banana oatmeal breakfast bars. Or the frozen yogurt covered fruit. Or the homemade fruit leather. (I told you I’m obsessed with Pinterest). It takes time, patience and endurance on our part as parents to introduce new foods more than once. But at least if they make it with you, they’re more likely to try it.

We encourage good life skills

I remember how amazing it felt when I made my first batch of scrambled eggs as a kid. I was all ”I can actually make something by myself from start to finish. I did it!” There’s nothing like being able to do something independently to boost your confidence.

How did you learn to cook? I bet you learned by doing it, by watching and participating more and more in the process as you got older.

As a parent, you can start this process when they’re small, showing them how to measure and add ingredients, how to stir, how to use the mixer, how to use a knife and eventually how to appropriately use a stove. Their future spouse will thank you.

We connect

For me, the most important reason to cook with your children is that it’s a way to connect. Life can get so busy with playdates and projects and homework and lessons and activities. Take some time to reconnect with your child by cooking with them.

There’s also a bonus benefit to cooking with your child. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice social skills - skills like taking turns, patience, cooperation and problem solving, just to name a few. Cooking with your kids can be a great teachable moment.

My son and I put the granola bars in the oven, then we get out the dustpan to sweep up the ingredients that missed the bowl. After we’re done, he asks sweetly

“Build duplos with me while we wait, mama?”

How can I say no to that :-)


If you’re looking for some healthy recipes to try, check out YUM!

This is a collection of recipes from real moms featured tried and true meals they serve their own families. I’m in it too, and I’ve included a few of my family’s favorite recipes.

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