When our kids were very young we began teaching them how to cook. In fact, we have videos of my son helping me cook pancakes for breakfast when he was just four years old! There wasn?t much he could do at that age, but I did have him mix the batter and sometimes flip the pancakes on the griddle. Now that our kids are teenagers, both are doing regular kitchen duty in our house. And I dare say both are also quite accomplished chefs! Why teach your kids to cook?
Neither I nor my wife have done much thinking about that question, even though we have virtually raised our kids to learn how to cook. But now that they?re older, we can see so many benefits from teaching them this very simple and very basic household chore.
I can?t help but notice a very disturbing trend in recent years: kids today have far fewer responsibilities than they did when I was young. They go to school and participate in a plethora of extracurricular activities, while the home side responsibilities seem limited to nothing more than taking out the garbage ? if they even do that.
When I was a kid, it was common to have to wash dishes, mow the lawn, rake leaves, watch younger siblings, and even do the laundry. If you?ll pardon me for saying this, I think too many parents today are obsessed with giving their children a ?good education?, and having them stand out in extracurricular activities in the hope that they?ll land a scholarship to college.
But all of that is singularly focused on formal education, as if life education no longer has any relevant meaning.
Yes, it?s important that our kids get a good formal education. But it is at least equally important that we teach them survival skills. This includes learning how to run a household, and all the chores that are involved ? including cooking.
If you don?t think that cooking is a survival skill, consider the following?
The more they can cook for themselves the less they?ll spend in restaurants
A generation of adults who frequently eat in restaurants, is raising another generation who will also eat in restaurants. We all like to complain about the high cost of living, but frequently eating in restaurants is one of the least necessary expenses we incur.
Part of that is happening because cooking is rapidly becoming lost art. Despite all the cooking shows on TV, and the fact that it has become fashionable to invest tens of thousands of dollars into creating designer kitchens, more meals are being eaten outside the home than at any time in history.
If you teach your kids how to cook you will be giving them the very best antidote to spending thousands of dollars per year on restaurant meals.
How to cook is part of Home Economics 101
One of the biggest advantages of learning how to cook is that cooking is something of a controlling activity. That is, if you learn how to cook, you will also learn – by necessity – everything that goes into it.
The biggest example is grocery shopping. If you know how to cook, you will know what ingredients you need for meal preparation, and that forms the basis of a grocery list. You also learn about substitution ? using lower cost ingredients as a way of getting the best value out of your meals.
Cooking also forces you to learn how to organize a kitchen, and also about cleaning up the mess that follows. An entire sequence of responsibilities flows from the simple act of cooking.
Yet another adult responsibility
There are so many responsibilities that a young person has to learn in order to become a successful and self-reliant adult. Once a kid grows up and goes off on his own, he will have to know how to manage personal finances, the basics of maintaining a car, and how to run a household efficiently ? that includes meal preparation. The ability to prepare a meal for yourself, and for your spouse and/or family, is a basic adult responsibility.
Sadly, many young people are clueless about cooking until they are out on their own and forced to do it. It can be a tough and costly way to learn.
A family activity
We often think of family activities as being something related to fun. A family vacation, a trip to an amusement park, a night at the movies, or participating in extracurricular activities.
But a family activity can also be chore related. That can include growing a family garden, cooking meals together, or even cleaning the house or washing the cars as a group activity. An activity does not have to be fun in order to be an effective family bonding activity. In fact, since so much of life is not fun, it can be a virtue to teach your children how to turn responsibilities into meaningful activities.
Your child might just have a passion for it
With certain kids, cooking could even turn into a hobby or a passion. While you may want your child to turn baseball, golf or music into a hobby, it?s entirely possible that he or she can choose something less ordinary like cooking. If the child is sufficiently passionate about cooking, it can even turn into a career.
I know ? we all want our kids to be engineers, college professors and healthcare professionals ? but not all kids are wired that way. We?re facing that possibility with our daughter. She started cooking much later than our son did, but she absolutely loves it. At 17 she is seriously considering making cooking a career.
Will she? We don?t know for sure, but we’re glad that we exposed her to the possibility. I would much rather have my kids pursue a career that they are passionate about ? even if it is unorthodox by conventional standards ? than to take on work that stifles their spirit and is done exclusively for a paycheck.
Though we may think of cooking as a household chore, it?s one that can be so much more. There?s a lot that can be learned, including self-reliance, and it may have money-saving and vocational implications as well.
Are you teaching your kids how to cook? Have you ever thought about the advantages it can offer them?
I remember my mum being very patient about teaching us fractions with cooking too. If you need two eggs for 8 people, how many eggs for 4? It would take the whole afternoon but we were learning.
Hi Pauline – That’s another benefit I hadn’t thought of. Cooking forces the application of math.
My kids will still ask me for measurement conversions when cooking. They study math at school, and they cook at home, but the connection between the two still isn’t fully developed. There’s time…
I wish my parents taught me how to cook when I was younger! Now, all I can cook is eggs 🙁
Hi Lisa – Well, eggs are a start! Maybe you can experiment from there. Try a good cookbook, you’ll be surprised at what you can do. The best advice I ever had on cooking was “don’t burn it”. That’s the key to the whole thing. If you can avoid burning what you cook it will usually work. That’s very basic of course, but it’s a good rule to start with.