6 ways to start teaching your kids how to cook

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1. Assign kitchen-related chores

It all starts with cooking. If you know how to cook, then you’ll be able to nourish yourself with healthy, fresh food for the least amount of money. But in order to cook, one must be taught, and usually that starts at home.

Many parents do not teach their kids how to cook, though, because they are unwilling to relinquish control. There’s the fear of sharp knives and hot stoves, the potentially wasted ingredients, the inevitable heap of dirty dishes, and the extra time it takes to prepare anything with a kid helping (or inhibiting) the process.

Teaching kids how to cook should be an essential part of child-raising, on par with potty-training and reading. After all, the extent of one’s “kitchen literacy” has significant bearing on maintaining personal health, as well as saving a lot of money by not eating out. Cooking from scratch is an act of rebellion against the industrialization of food production and the insidious pervasiveness of processed foods. It’s the best way to source local and seasonal ingredients while supporting local growers.

On a daily basis, only one-quarter of Canadians eat a meal that’s cooked from scratch, despite the mounting evidence that home cooking is the best path to health, and a 2012 study from the University of Alberta, cited in the Globe and Mail, found that children who help cook are 10 percent more likely to eat vegetables.

Here are some ideas for how to get started:

Toddlers are capable of helping set the table. My three-year-old lays out the cutlery and plates, and my five-year-old carries dishes of food to the table and clears away the dirty plates. Ask your young kids to help sweep, dry dishes, put away ingredients, empty the cutlery basket in the dishwasher. Hanging out in the kitchen will make them more comfortable with it.

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