As some of the COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, school doors start to reopen, local cafes and business’ begin welcoming customers back in and life gets a little busier – how can we keep some of the happy, healthy habits that we created? The nostalgic value of sitting around a table eating with our families, the gift of more face-to-face time and even having our youngsters home and helping out in the kitchen.
There are plenty of beneficial skills that kids learn when they are exposed to the kitchen and a part of the foodie process from a young age. Perhaps the most obvious of those skills and the most widely spoken about is that cooking is a life skill and why not and teach them young!
Developing a good relationship with food from a young age is part of the integral foundation of building our kids physical and mental health, setting up better healthy patterns for later years to come. Arranging healthy foods in a more creative and fun way can make foods more enticing for children to eat them. A study has shown that kids are more inclined to eat fruits and vegetables such as spinach when they are plated in clever ways such as the classic animals faces or flowers – simple touches that add an element of fun to the plate.
For most families being in isolation provided an opportunity to sit down together at table to eat more frequently. Eating meals together as a family allows us to model our own eating behaviours to our younger ones and we are encouraged to take these chances to open our kids up to eating a wide variety of food of varying in colours and textures. Kids often mirror adult behaviours and seeing us eat healthy foods creates positive associations. Research shows that having children helping out in the kitchen at a younger age can make them more of an adventurous eater, more eager to vary their palette.
Parents have been wearing multiple hats during isolation, taking on the role of home-schooling our youngsters whilst schools have been closed and whether conscious of it or not, learning to follow a recipe, helping measure or weigh ingredients integrates elements of learning – bonus!
Cooking provides and environment for creativity and inquisitiveness whilst incorporating maths, English and basic science depending on the recipe. Our youngsters can hone in on their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination whilst undertaking tasks in the kitchen such as helping squeeze lemons, mix ingredients or for older kids, where appropriate, chopping ingredients.
Children learn by touching, listening, reading, observing, smelling, feeling and tasting and the kitchen is the ideal environment for them to use their senses and explore learning. Developing language can also happen behind the bench, learning new words, describing the way things smell, taste and feel can be an interesting way to expand vocabulary and spice up their language!
It is widely noted that one of the best things that you can do to look after your health and well being is home prepare the majority of your meals so you know exactly what is going into your mouth – as the well known phrase goes “you are what you eat”.
Studies show that overall those that eat more home cooked meals consume less sugar and processed foods. Keeping sugar consumption low in kids, whilst not always easy is important. High fructose products, often found in processed foods are impactful on the hippocampal function in children during important periods of development – it is the hippocampal that plays a vital role in the learning and memory function of our little ones brains.
Whilst reaping the educational and health benefits of being in the kitchen with kids, spending time cooking although sometimes messy is a moment of connection. Creating memories, sharing how each others days were and learning new things are the happy habits that we can continue long after isolation comes to an end.
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