Why it's important to teach your children to cook

When I moved out into my own flat way back when I had no idea how to cook. I could warm up baked beans and I could make toast but that was the extent of my capabilities. Unfortunately I had to learn through trial and error and for a long time I convinced myself I was a rubbish cook. Not once did I ever imagine I would enjoy cooking or even be able to feed a family with awesome meals that would keep them healthy and happy. A few realisations recently have brought me to the conclusion that we ought to be making the effort to teach our children to cook.



How it started


BP started cooking in school a while ago, he's had to have certain ingredients every other week and comes home with various meals or desserts. You would think that this is great right? I mean, the school is teaching him to cook, so why on earth do I need to get involved. Well, the problem is that the school are not teaching they're just letting him get on with it, at least that's what I gather. 

On more than one occasion he has come home with a meal, like chicken pie for example, and wanted to eat it for his dinner. Except we couldn't because the chicken wasn't cooked. Now what would've happened if he'd just gone ahead and eaten that?! I asked him if he'd been told anything about uncooked or undercooked chicken and he said he hadn't. I couldn't believe it - I mean surely that's the first thing the school should mention when they're given a recipe involving chicken? I wouldn't have thought they'd want lots of children leaving school with food poisoning - surely?


A cooked chicken sits on a silver platter, with a bowl of salad nearby on a wooden table. Teaching our children to cook is so important.


So anyway, having the chicken issue on top of lots of other things led me to thoughts of having to teach him myself. Don't get me wrong, we've done lots of cooking at home with desserts and snacks but it's only ever been simple things and I didn't think about teaching him to cook complicated meals. 

Until now.



Plans


The first thing I did after learning about the chicken incident was to teach BP about the dangers of undercooked chicken. I told him that if he's cooking chicken, he needs to make sure that it's cooked throughout. I'm not sure he was listening at the time, but with plenty of reiteration I'm sure he'll get it. 

My next thing is to find recipes he can do, with supervision, that will feed us all. Our plan is for him to cook our family meals, even if they take ages, so he can learn that he doesn't just need to eat toast. I'd love for him to be able to cook complicated meals when he's off at university or in his own place. If he can feed himself tasty meals he may eat better than I did when I was a young adult. 

Recently I've been reading about teaching children to cook and why it's important, and even though you would think the reasons are obvious I did come across a few things where I thought "oh yes, of course!".



Essential life skill


If I had been able to cook as a young adult I have no doubt I would've eaten far better than I did. My meals consisted of noodles, beans, and toast, mostly anything that could be easily heated. I didn't attempt spaghetti bolognese until I was about 21 and even then it was using a jar of sauce and that was about it.


A pan filled with bolognese, a spoon sits across the top of the pan. Spaghetti bolognese something we should be teaching our children to cook.


When I compare the food I eat today to the food I used to eat when I was young, they're polar opposites and I wish I'd had the knowledge back then. Yes, part of it was about cost, but if I'd been able to get cheap products I would've cooked better meals. 

By teaching your children to cook you're giving them a skill they will use throughout their life. From making a quick snack to creating a family meal everyone can enjoy, they will eat better. They will be able to use the skill to make sure they eat properly and make better choices.





I'm not a chef. But I'm passionate about food - the tradition of it, cooking it, and sharing it.

Zac Posen





Spend quality time together


I have 2 boys, one likes to be active and goes on bike rides with his dad, and the other is quiet and likes writing and drawing. But when we get in the kitchen it is my turn to spend time with them and they listen (most of the time). It's what I know and they know it. 

Teaching your children how to cook gives you a chance to be together and they learn that you do actually know stuff! Being a stay-at-home mum can be tough sometimes, children often end up thinking their parents do nothing but by teaching them about cooking you're proving that you do know things and can be useful. 

It's a difficult thing to prove to your children that you don't just 'do nothing' all day, but by teaching them you show that you have information and knowledge that will help them.

When in the kitchen you get to talk about other things too, children tend to talk more when they're busy doing other things. At least that's my experience. You get to talk to your children, being together and learning together is a bonding experience.



Learn about food and nutrition


Now I'm no expert on nutrition but I do know a little about what's good for my children. When we cook together they get to ask about foods they've never seen before, like avocado, and they get to learn. More than one time I've had questions from LP about certain foods and why I use them. It's always great hearing those questions because it's my opportunity to teach. I can tell them why I make the ingredient choices I do and they understand why some foods are better than others.


A black chopping board with spring onions, herbs, and tomatoes on it, with a knife sitting nearby. Foods I want to teach my children about how to cook.


In the past I have made the assumption that the school are teaching my children about food. But this isn't always the case. Yes, the cover the basics like potatoes and tomatoes, but as I realised when LP was 7 and had no idea what radishes were we need to teach too. 

Have your children in the kitchen when you're cooking, show them the foods you use - especially the "unusual" foods like avocado or courgette - and talk about what you're using and why. Herbs, spices, vegetables, and meats, are all things to discuss. Talk about how certain spices make the food taste "smoky" or how salt makes it a little tastier. You can also teach about how using too much salt is bad for you. 

I love having my boys in the kitchen asking questions about the foods I use and how I cook. It's my chance to impart wisdom!



Confidence and self-worth


Not being able to cook when I was a young adult impacted my confidence. I didn't invite people over for dinner, I didn't cook for myself, and I berated myself for not being able to cook. It was not good for my self-esteem.

By teaching your children to cook you're helping them improve their confidence and self-worth. If they spend any time away from home but are confident they could create a tasty meal for themselves that's going to do wonders for their self-worth. 

When your children cook something that everyone enjoys they get to feel proud of an achievement and they believe in themselves. 



Following instructions


To begin with following a recipe is important, knowing what to put into the pot when and how it's meant to be cooked helps lots. But it's the following of the instructions that teaches them too. When they're given a recipe it teaches them to read and follow instructions to get an end result they like - much like Lego


A macbook sits on a table next to a red pepper and olive oil. On the screen is a chicken and chorizo paella recipe. Something I would like to teach my children how to cook.


Being able to follow instructions is another important life skill, and it's something they'll use again and again. From building Ikea furniture to following instructions in a work environment, by teaching them about recipe instructions you're helping them for the rest of their lives.



Trying new foods


I have read that children who help to cook meals are more likely to try new foods. Now I don't have much experience with this, LP has always been a bit picky and I don't see that changing any time soon. But I do believe by explaining what the new foods are, and how and why they're in a recipe can reduce the worry children may have around the food. Telling them about a food, what it is and what it tastes like, can help them realise that there's no need to be afraid of the food. 





Food, to me, is always about cooking and eating with those you love and care for.

David Chang





I think it's probably more about the discussing ingredients rather than the fact that they're cooking that gives them the confidence to try the new foods, but either way if they're willing to try new things that's gotta be a good thing right?



Teaching the basics


So with the reasons why you should teach your children to cook covered above I thought I'd suggest a few basics you could cover with your children.



Breakfast


Toast is super simple and every teen ought to be able to make themselves toast in a morning. Cereal is super easy and even my 9 year old knows that the cereal goes in the bowl and you add milk. Super simple and no further instructions necessary. 


A fried egg with bread on a blue plate. Something it would be good to teach your children how to cook.


Add eggs to the list and they suddenly have many more options when it comes to breakfast. Fried, boiled, even poached (which I haven't mastered yet!), cooking eggs is simple and really needs to be taught as soon as you can. Obviously covering things like being careful about spattering hot oil when you're frying eggs but it's one of those things that can make their breakfast choices so much easier.



Lunch


Baked potatoes can be paired with so many things, including baked beans (😂) so why not teach them how to cook baked potatoes? For ours we bung them in the microwave for 20 minutes or so (it's a dual cook machine) but teach your children the way you cook yours. Cover the kinds of things you can add to baked potatoes to make them more interesting, such as butter, cheese, baked beans, even minced beef!



Dinner


Spaghetti bolognese is a great recipe to teach for dinner. You can get some super simple recipes that involve tomato passata, minced beef, spaghetti, and carrots, and that's it! Start out simple and then add to the recipe when they've got it down. My spaghetti bolognese started out by using a Dolmio jar of sauce, but these days I use passata, canned tomatoes, and sometimes even red wine. I play around with recipes and add vegetables and herbs to make the taste a little different. With spaghetti bolognese I don't think you can really go wrong so why not let them give it a go?


Why it's important to teach your children to cook - it's a skill they'll use throughout their lives!


Of course teaching your children to cook isn't just about the food - you need to be teaching them about the utensils and machines you use too. In the few times we've had BP in the kitchen I've taught him how to use the oven, which he can now turn on if I need him to, the microwave, and the kettle. Obviously make them aware of the dangers, like hot water in the kettle or not to put metal things in the microwave, take the opportunity to show them about all the things you use daily.

So there you have it, reasons why it's important to teach your children to cook and a few ideas for you start with. I hope that's helped you a little, and if it's something that you already knew then I hope it's reinforced your thoughts on cooking with your children. 




If you enjoyed this post you might want to look at my Chicken with Black Bean Sauce Stir Fry recipe, one I think is great to teach the children. And if you're thinking you're not much of a cook and your food never turns out like the recipe says you might enjoy Why your meal didn't turn out like the recipe.

I'd love you to join me over on my Facebook Page where I'm discussing teaching your children to cook, the downfalls, the parent fails, and more.

As a stay-at-home mum I'm always looking to connect with other stay-at-home mums. I write weekly emails featuring parenting issues, how to cook lovely family meals, and how to cope when your children go to school, and I'd love you to get these straight to your inbox. You can do this by visiting my page Helping stay-at-home mums - you'll make my day by joining me.

7 comments

  1. I have to admit to being the worst in the kitchen. My daughter is doing cookery at school and so far, is faring much better than me. But I have desire to cook so that doesn't help although I can do basics eg roast dinner etc, I cannot cook eggs due to a raw egg phobia and I don't eat rice or pasta myself so struggle with those meals for Olivia. It can get quite tricky when cooking 2 different meals in small portions really #pocolo

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  2. YES!!! This is so needed. You are right it is a life skill. My daughter loves to help me cook. It is so useful! #pocolo
    tracy www.viewfromthebeachchair.com

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  3. I think its an essential skill. Even my 7 year old makes her own breakfast and little snacks. Junior is a very keen cook and is expanding his repertoire. At high school they only get the opportunity to cook 3 times. That doesn't seem like much at all. This week they had to make a pasta dish and J's teacher was very impressed that he was the only one who made a white sauce from scratch. #pocolo

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  4. I learnt to cook at school as my mother wasn't a great cook, so left home with that life skill, but learnt about washing and other jobs by trial and error. (Mostly error). The Tubblet has done some cooking but seems to be very good at baking! Which I'm hopeless at ...

    Totally agree though. Teaching children life skills is really important so they can take care of themselves when they go out into the world

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  5. I think it is such an important thing to teach kids, it will help them for when they are older and need that independence X #pocolo

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  6. I think children should all be taught how to cook. I remember some teachers being quite snobby when I chose to study Home Economics at school. One even went as far to say that it was a waste of my intelligence. I came out with an A. Funny thing is I'm a dreadful cook. I need to find someone else to teach my kids. Maybe Oma. 😉 Thank you for hosting #POCOLO

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  7. Everyone should be able to cook. It is a skill that will save you money at the very least. Thanks for sharing this. #PoCoLo

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