There’s been no shortage of press and publicity in the last few years around the benefits of cooking with kids, yet as Jamie Oliver reported in July for the Huffington Post UK’s “Thriving Families” campaign, many of us aren’t cooking from scratch regularly, let alone showing our kids how to do it. It’s funny because as parents we spend so much time wondering how we can do the best for our kids, and we know that feeding them well is one of the cornerstones of “good parenting”. Yet somewhere in the maelstrom of 48 hour weeks, 24 hour supermarkets and five minute convenience foods the tradition of passing down basic cookery skills to our children seems to have been lost. Maybe it’s because we are so time poor now, or maybe parents have lost the art of cookery themselves. Whatever the reason, we’re doing our children, and our children’s children, a huge disservice.
I am so grateful to my own mum for bringing me up in an environment where cooking from scratch was a regular occurrence, and for encouraging me to take an interest in food and cookery. I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate at the time her patience in letting me help her with the family supper, and allowing me to spend rainy weekends wreaking havoc in the kitchen with my best friend. At the time it probably didn’t feel like much of an achievement to her, but I look back and it’s genuinely one of the things I am most thankful to her for. Because of all this I not only know how to feed myself good food, I can feed my kids well too. And one day they’ll do the same for their own children. What an amazing gift she has given me.
What mum did for me shouldn’t be an unrealistic goal for any parent. Most of us find the time to do other activities with our children, so why not cooking? I’m not talking about baking the occasional batch of cupcakes; I mean a proper meal. Many families have “takeaway night”. So why not “cooking with the kids” night? Just one night a week when the children get back from school and help cook dinner for the family from scratch.
If you’re not a confident cook, maybe you can learn alongside your children. Practice very simple skills and recipes first and gradually build up to something more adventurous. If you have kids who are fussy eaters, cooking with them can help to broaden their diet, and get the whole family eating new foods. I’ve cooked with children for six years, and am constantly surprised and amazed by what they are capable of in the kitchen, and by what they will eat if they have had a hand in making it.
In this day and age everyone seems to be busier than ever, but if we can find time to teach our children all the other basic life skills isn’t it also our responsibility to show them how to feed themselves well once they have flown the nest? And what are the consequences for future generations if we don’t?