Give Your Children a Great Gift: Teach Them To Cook

Chow on 03.19.11
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Now that my children are adults, I can look back on my child-rearing and see what I did right, and where I fell down a bit. One thing I absolutely did right was to teach them to cook for themselves. When they were small, we loved to do baking projects together, when it didn't matter how long it took, or how much of a mess we made. It was fun, and it was a great learning experience. They learned measurements, learned about time, learned about ingredients, maybe some family history, and maybe some cultural history. It wasn't until they were a bit older that I realized that I should have been focussing a bit more on a crucial aspect of working in the kitchen: Making dinner.

When my son started university at the age of 17, he started talking about leaving home. My husband pointed out that he couldn't leave home, because he couldn't cook anything beyond boxed macaroni and cheese. I realized then that although I had spent loads of time with the kids in the kitchen, when it came down to getting dinner on the table, I wanted to get it done with the least amount of fuss and bother, and that meant doing it myself. So when my son asked me to teach him to cook, we started working together to get dinner ready every day. He learned pretty much everything I know about cooking and nutrition, and for two years until he did leave home, I got to spend an hour or so every day with him in the kitchen, just the two of us, chopping, stirring, listening to music and talking. Believe me, that is an invaluable experience for the parent of a teenager. I did the same thing with my daughter, and now they both cook nutritious meals for themselves from scratch, without having to rely on packaged foods or junk food.

When people say to me that they don't bother cooking because they would rather spend time with their kids instead of meal preparation, I say, why not take them into the kitchen with you and spend the time together there? Sure, it takes a bit of effort and patience, especially early on, but the rewards are great. Not only that, it has been shown that children who participate in meal planning and making are more likely to eat their vegetables and be more open to trying new foods. What have you got to lose?

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