The holiday season is here and so is the time for home-baked goodness— from green bean casseroles to roasted turkeys to cranberry sauce. However, busy lives can make it difficult to cook homemade meals. In fact, research shows that busy schedules encourage parents to rely on pre-made food in place of home-cooked meals. One California study found that 87% of children in grades 4-8 were eating meals on their own– meals often pre-prepared or prepackaged.
So does it matter that parents are cooking less– especially with their children? Yes. Prepackaged meals often contain little nutritional value with high sodium, fat, and sugar. Parents and children relying on pre-prepared foods are relying on food with poor nutritional value.
In contrast, research shows that children who participate in cooking with adults experience:
- increased preference for healthy food
- increased knowledge of nutrition
- increased sense of ability to cook healthy food
- increased consumption of healthy food
The benefits of cooking with children go beyond better nutrition for your family. Children (of all ages) who cook with adults also learn valuable developmental skills:
- how to apply math in the real world
- how to follow directions
- how to organize and plan
- how chemistry impacts our lives
- how cultures differ
Cooking also provides young children with sensory experiences that help them explore their worlds.
Most importantly, cooking provides a prime opportunity to develop a relationship with the child(ren) in your life. From praising your child(ren) while they cook, to teaching them new skills, to simply interacting with them, cooking offers you the perfect time to bond.
This holiday season don’t try to squeeze in home-cooked meals between your responsibilities and family time. Instead, use preparation of winter dishes as opportunities to cook up holiday goodness as you spend time with your child(ren).
For easy recipes to make with children, click here. Or for more information on cooking with children, consider purchasing Smart Eating for Young Children– an OSU Extension publication.