Cooking is a basic life skill – something that every individual should learn. Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, who has authored the book, ‘How to raise an adult’, makes the following observation based on the Harvard Grant Study and the Harvard Glueck study supervised by Professor George Vaillant of Harvard Medical School. She underlines that the study shows that children exposed to household chores from a very young age grow up to become professionally successful adults. She states that household chores help kids build responsibility, autonomy, and perseverance.
So, if you think that preschoolers are too young to assist you in the kitchen, think again. Preschoolers can help out in the kitchen in many ways. They can wash fruits and vegetables, pluck spinach, mint and coriander leaves, or use the cookie cutter to cut cookies of various shapes, and do much more. In fact, you can come up with your own long list of what your child can do depending on the level of his dexterity.
However, before you head to the kitchen with your preschooler, here are a few things that you should pay attention to. Make sure that sharp objects like knives, scissors, etc., and ingredients like chilli powder are kept out of her reach. Talk to your preschooler about the new skills that you are going to teach her. Keep a cheerful spirit and sound enthusiastic while you brief her on how to stay safe in the kitchen where she will be around hot utensils and fire.
But if you are still unconvinced about the benefits of letting your little one into the kitchen to help you, here’s a list of benefits to dispel your doubts.
1. Learning to cook from an early age teaches responsibility.
Preschoolers love to take charge of everything when they are assigned tasks. Therefore, when you assign them specific tasks to do in the kitchen every day, you help groom them to become responsible individuals. What more, you will be surprised to find that most of them participate enthusiastically.
2. Cooking fine-tunes motor skills.
Rinsing fruits and vegetables, tearing lettuce for salad, stirring or whipping cake batter, peeling boiled eggs are activities that help in developing both gross and fine motor skills. The more your child practises, the more adept he will become. This in turn will help him learn to cook entire recipes from a very early age.
3. Cooking boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
A vegetable or fruit salad made by your little one and proudly presented at the table for visiting guests or grandparents is sure to bring in a round of applause. Preschoolers love attention and blossom in the shadow of appreciation. Helping you out a little in the kitchen can go a long way in boosting your child’s self-esteem.
4. Cooking encourages counting and reading skills.
Play games with your child that makes her think, learn and be creative as she helps around in the kitchen. Ask her to come up with interesting names for the dishes by combining the names of the ingredients used. Ask her to count the number of scoops loudly every time an ingredient goes into the pan. Poonam, a home-baker mom from Delhi, remarks, “Every time I bake cakes and cookies, my four-year-old daughter Anya is the one who tells me all the different toppings and fillings. Her combinations sometimes are so creative and they work together too!”
5. Cooking helps in bonding and connecting.
Most importantly, time spent in the kitchen cooking together helps in developing a close bond between you and your child. While cooking together, encourage him to talk about his favourite people, toys and so on. If you can carve out time to cook with your preschooler every day, you will find yourself connecting with him like never before!
So, let your little one put on his apron and enjoy cooking along with you.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.