By Sara Carter
Dinner time can be used for more than eating a good meal and catching up with family. The kitchen has endless educational opportunities for your kids. From your littlest ones up to your teenagers, the kitchen can double as a classroom to teach them lessons that will be valuable throughout their lives.
Whether it’s helping with meal preparation or assisting with the grocery list, cooking can be a fun family activity. Not to mention, with kids going back to school, small tasks can be great opportunities to incorporate a bit of homework and practice counting, spelling, writing, and more. All of these tactics not only educate your family but can help with building meaningful relationships with your children. Follow along for more ways to educate your children in the kitchen.
Allow Them to Help with Preparation
In the long run, involving kids in mealtime preparation will set them up for success in adulthood. Now that’s not saying your toddler has been put to work, but there are many ways of getting everyone involved.
Kids under the age of ten can help pull ingredients out from the cupboards (depending on height) or the refrigerator. If they’re of the reading age, give them a chance to look at your recipe and practice reading and sound things out loud. Aside from gathering ingredients, younger helpers can also assist with setting the table. As they’ll need to get out the proper number of place settings, this is another chance for your kids to practice counting with you. Both offer a fun way to get kids to practice their phonics and math skills outside of their homework.
Older kids can help with chopping ingredients or measuring items. This offers a way for them to practice assembling a dish from start to finish while also using organizational skills to follow the recipe. If you have a particularly stubborn helper who puts off their school work, you can use cooking time to quiz them on spelling and math as you go. For instance, if you have to cut a recipe in half, let them do the subtraction for the ingredients list.
Depending on their household chores, you can make meal preparation part of your kid’s weekly schedule. There are a number of other chores in the kitchen that your kids can contribute to as part of their weekly responsibilities, too. With school and extracurricular activities coming back in session, things can quickly get hectic. Setting a regular schedule of chores allows you to plan ahead of time and bonding time is not sacrificed amongst your busy schedule.
Work Together on a Grocery List
Giving kids the freedom to make their own choices can help empower and instill responsibility in them. Building a weekly grocery list does both of these things and is also full of other educational opportunities. For teens, it gives them a chance to talk about finances and educate them on a budget. This may be especially helpful for teens getting their first jobs or heading off to college in the next few years. Little kids can join in on the finance fun, too. Invite them to find coupons in weekly ads or talk about what snacks they may want to enjoy that week.
Bringing your kids along to the grocery store is also a great way to get the kids involved. As you walk through the grocery store, encourage your kids to help find items on your list, either by spelling things out or going through the store in a particular order. You can also talk to your kids about bulk prices and compare brand names versus store-specific items for cost savings. If a specific product isn’t available, work together with your child to find an alternative or substitution. With the supply chain being wonky recently, this is an easy lesson to execute with empty shelves.
Talk About Alternatives
If your schedule gets choked with practices, concerts, games, and other extracurricular activities during the school year, you may find that you eat out more than at home. Still, this doesn’t eliminate all chances to teach your kids food-related skills. Much like the grocery store, do a price comparison with them or break down what the meal costs each individual. Maybe your family has a favorite dish at a restaurant. Try to find a copycat recipe so you can teach them how to make it at home.
Food delivery is definitely on the uptick for busy families. From grocery delivery from stores like Walmart to food delivery from Grubhub, many options are available to use with your family. Before clicking “place your order” you can take a moment to teach your family some lessons. Price comparison is a big opportunity here as you can show them differently priced items side by side in your online shopping cart. Another lesson you can impart to your children is thanking workers by tipping delivery drivers. Tipping drivers is a great way to teach kids of all ages how to show appreciation towards others and how to pay someone for their services.
Family mealtime is full of educational opportunities for your children. From financial lessons to working through a recipe, there are many ways to involve your kids while cooking in the kitchen. Remember to assign age-appropriate tasks, and plan things ahead of time, so you’re not overwhelmed on a busy night. But at the end of the day, this is a chance to bond with your family.
** Sara Carter is a co-founder of Enlightened Digital. She enjoys spending her days writing about technology and business, writing code, or chasing her kids and dog.