The Many Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids During the Holidays
That’s not to say that things won’t get messy, of course.
From 20-pound turkeys to red and green Christmas cookies, with their emphasis on food, experts agree that the holidays are an ideal time to get kids involved in the kitchen.
“I think it helps build up their confidence and their independence,” Charleston-based chef and mother-of-two Aimee Jones told The Post and Courier. “They say, ‘Look, I can do this, I can make and feed myself something yummy.’ Especially when they can share it with their parents, it definitely helps them build confidence in themselves.”
“This is the age where everything we teach them gets stuck in their heads,” Nico Romo, chef and owner of Nico Oysters + Seafood and father-of-three, told The Post and Courier. “If something goes wrong with the heat on the stove, they know they can handle it. They can turn it off. And they’re using their hands to create things. They can already draw and do all those things, so why can’t they hold and chop a vegetable? You show them and watch them. It’s a lot of fun.”
But that doesn’t mean that you should task your toddler with dicing onions. Cheyenne Richards, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Nutrition Rites told the paper that children ages three to five typically learn best with simple, hands-on tasks that involve tearing, mashing, and washing. By the time they’re five to seven, their motor skills should have improved enough that they can be trusted with utensils.
Baking is an excellent (read: safe!) way to get kids involved come Christmastime. Jones recommends letting kids measure, which helps to build hand-eye coordination and gets them used to working with the numbers.
Involving children in the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating their favorite holiday treats also makes for a one-of-a-kind bonding experience. K. J. Dell'Antonia and Margaux Laskey sum up the experience of teaching your kids to cook best in a 2015 piece for The New York Times.
“For better or worse, you will get to know your children, and they you, more deeply when you cook with them. For better, you will share recipes, techniques and anecdotes that you learned at the elbows of mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers long gone,” they wrote.
“For worse, you will huff and puff and whine and lose your patience when they accidentally spill heavy cream all over the kitchen table while making mini-shortcakes with berries, but they will love you anyway, teaching you, the one who’s supposed to be the grown-up, about unconditional love and ready forgiveness.”