If you have children, you’re probably busy juggling many of the extracurricular activities that are beneficial for kids—from sports to STEM to the arts. Yet, you may be overlooking one of the best options for your child’s free time. There’s an activity that has many positive benefits and is so useful they can use it every day of their lives. It’s cooking!

Cooking with kids at an early age is a great way to teach them valuable skills they can appreciate and apply forever. Making the lessons taught in the kitchen fun and delicious will make your children even more excited to learn how to prepare tasty and wholesome meals and snacks while exploring different foods and cuisines.

The benefits of cooking with kids

This season we are focusing on the “eating better, eating together” initiative by providing helpful information, insights, and tips for creating ways to bring your family together to enjoy meals. Because when we enjoy delicious wholesome foods with others, we are sharing an experience of not only great food, but also connection with the people who make our lives meaningful.

Countless research has been performed on the positive impact of cooking with kids. Plus, when you can make it fun for kids to get involved in meal planning and preparation they’ll be more interested in the task at hand.

Here are some key benefits to cooking with kids:

1. It teaches kids good nutrition habits. A study at the University of Illinois found that when children cook with an adult they:

  • make overall better food choices than children who aren’t involved in meal preparation
  • eat more vegetables
  • eat less sugar
  • are more likely to try new foods, like plant-based meat alternatives and dairy-free foods

2. Strengthens math, reading, and science skills. Recipes are filled with opportunities for children to read, especially aloud, and to understand how math plays an important role in daily tasks. Even when not following a recipe, there are chances to discuss math concepts. The science lessons of cooking are countless, like how heat can make foods melt and how water can change from a liquid to solid to gas.

3. It’s great family bonding time. Cooking provides a chance for you to spend time with your children not only preparing a meal, but also sharing about your childhood, your family’s cultural traditions tied to food, or even just catching up on the day’s events. You can bond by trying a new recipe, discussing options for ingredients, and your likes and dislikes of different foods.

4. Cooking boosts self-esteem in children. Cooking is all about project management. It feels good when you plan, execute the tasks, and complete the project successfully. Children can also experience this same sense of pride and accomplishment when they help plan, prepare, and eat a meal with the family.

How to make cooking with kids fun

Cooking with kids is a fun activity the whole family can take part in—even the little ones. To make meal planning even smoother, have your children involved at the start. Initiate their help to make a list of their favorite foods and explore recipes. Then get the children to sign up for tasks for the meal.

Preschoolers can lend a helping hand in the kitchen by rinsing vegetables, assembling kitchen tools, and setting the table for a meal. Older kids can help out by measuring ingredients, pouring, stirring, and learning how to use kitchen appliances like mixers, microwaves, and ovens.
Teenagers are ready to learn how to properly cut and chop vegetables and how to safely use heat sources like stove tops.

Here are some creative ideas to get the kids cooking up fun and tasty food:

Who Doesn’t Love Pizza?

Most kids like foods they can make together, like our Incredible Vegan Pizza presents a chance for kids to customize while also exploring new toppings they may not have tried before, like olives, peppers, plant-based meats, and dairy-free cheese.

Let’s Top It Off!

Another fun option to get kids to try new foods, is to create a make-your-own food bar. Whether it’s chili, baked potatoes, or this Savory Vegan Mac-n-Cheese featuring Vevan Ched-Shred, everyone likes their meal more when they can make it their own. Experiment with toppings like fresh chopped vegetables, a variety of dairy-free cheese flavors, and bacon in meat or plant-based varieties.

Nacho Average Party

Kids love parties, so create a cooking party night. Whether it’s a special occasion or a time you choose to make special, kids of all ages delight in a party. Consider making a group snack like these Dairy-Free Melty Nachos which can be customized to your crew’s liking and dietary needs.

It’s Game Time

Children love finger foods, and this Savory, Spicy, and Sweet Puff Pastry Bites recipe is great for a group of aspiring chefs. You can double the batch and split kids into teams for a fun version of your favorite cooking competition reality television show! Everybody wins when they’re trying and discovering new foods.

Cooking with kids teaches so many important lessons and gives you a great time to connect with your family while enjoying delicious food. We would love to hear from you about how you make food fun for your kids and what you’re cooking together. And, we would be thrilled to see pictures of you and yours creating and savor a delicious meal you prepared together. Tag us when you share your story and you may be featured here!

If you’re looking for additional meal ideas, read more in our “eating better, eating together” series.