Involving your little one in food preparation has so many wide-ranging benefits and may not be as challenging as you think.
Taking part in preparing meals is not only about cooking .... think about everything you do to put food on the table; from planning and shopping all the way through to setting the table, serving the food and even clearing away afterwards. Your little one can be involved in all of these activities as well as the actual preparation of the food itself and the developmental benefits are amazing!
What your little one learns by helping out in the kitchen....
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
We all know how our self-esteem soars when someone lets us know our actions have been helpful to them and your little one is no different; by getting them to team up with you in the kitchen you are giving them the message that they are valued.
They will also learn, by being invited to handle some items of equipment they would not be able to play with on their own, that some things require particular care and a change in behaviour. For example, you will explain to your child that throwing a fork could hurt someone else or touching something from the oven will burn them. In this way they will begin to develop self-regulation and understand that they have a responsibility to adapt their behaviour in different situations.
Language and Communication
Following your guidance as you explain how to help will support your little one to develop listening skills. They are more likely to want to listen to you when they are doing something exciting and challenging. The more they listen, the more speech sounds they are absorbing which will support their developing speech as well as preparing them for later phonics awareness.
There are so many opportunities to extend your little one's vocabulary in cooking. They will hear a lot of new 'action' words in context (such as 'mix', 'cut', 'squash', spread' ...) which will encourage them to begin joining words into phrases. Then there are all the names for foods and equipment to learn as well as the descriptive language you might introduce them to such as 'sticky', 'soft', 'juicy', 'hot' etc.
As a result, your little one's 'receptive language' or understanding will receive a big boost too. They will be learning how to follow simple instructions by listening to you and responding to your gestures, such as 'put the flour in the bowl' as well as growing an understanding of simple questions such as 'where is the egg?'.