For quite some time, I looked at making dinner as a chore. Sometimes I even dreaded it! But everything changed when I started to shift my perspective on cooking. It helped me to appreciate the time more and helped me to see all the wonderful benefits of cooking at home. Now, dinnertime is becoming one of my favorite times of the day. Can you believe it?!
Don’t get me wrong, there are still evenings when cooking is overwhelming, especially when we have a lot of other things going on. And there are also some evenings I don’t feel like cooking with my kids. I just need the time to be by myself.
BUT when it works out (and I find that since I’m prioritizing it, it works out quite often) I love that time, and I love to involve the kids!
Here are 5 benefits to cooking at home:
1. At home, you get to choose the ingredients
Food is the first and best medicine for our bodies. The food we eat impacts our immune system, our brain, our mood, and every other cellular function! If we want our kids to be their best at home, at school, in sports, and in life, it starts with quality ingredients.
Unfortunately, most prepared foods sold in restaurants, fast food joints, and grocery stores contain ingredients that, while cheap, are NOT good for our bodies. Highly processed seed oils, added sugars, preservatives, and questionably sourced “flavorings” can all contribute to poor health outcomes.
When you cook your family’s meals, you get to choose every ingredient. That means that you can prioritize nutrient-dense single ingredients foods like healthy fats, grass-fed meats, lots of organic vegetables, and probiotic foods like fermented vegetables and yogurt. You can even make our own salad dressing, which is a perfect task to give your kids.
2. Cooking is a great time to connect
Evenings often feel rushed. By the time I’ve fed and bathed the kids and gotten them to bed, I’m left wondering where the time went.
But cooking helps slow things down. When I bring the kids into the kitchen to help me make dinner, it is an intentional time to listen to how their day at school went, to hear their thoughts and ideas, to laugh and joke, and to just spend quality time together. Cooking isn’t just about preparing our meal. It’s the best
3. The kitchen is a great place for kids to build skills, coordination, and confidence
Cooking builds coordination, teamwork, and confidence. It is also rich with teaching moments. Kids can crack eggs, measure ingredients, set the timer, mix and stir, and practice reading directions. Each time kids practice these tasks, their hand-eye coordination will improve, they will have the chance to apply math skills to real-world situations, and they may even get curious about the chemistry of food.
Cooking also builds confidence! Kids go through an amazing moments of confidence building when they do things on their own, and the smile that my son had on his face when he cooked breakfast for the first time by himself is unforgettable.
Cooking also gets children (and adults) to be fully present in the moment by stimulating the senses. My kids LOVE to smell and taste the ingredients we use—they’ve even tasted sourdough batter and have eaten straight cumin spice! Cooking helps to build connections in the brain and coordination in the body. It is full-body learning!
4. Cooking with young kids sets them up for a lifetime of cooking
Being able to cook for yourself is a life skill. I had friends in college that didn’t even know how to make boxed macaroni and cheese. No judgment over here, just some gratitude that my mom and dad made me help in the kitchen! Experience in the kitchen as a child makes it much easier to feel confident exploring cooking later on in life.
I am so grateful that our time in the kitchen together has set my kids up for a measure of independence. My four-year-old and seven-year-old can make their own breakfast, get their own snacks, and probably even make a dinner on their own, if needed. And that takes a huge weight off of me. I am hopeful that these fun memories and skills will inspire my kids to continue to cook into their adult years.
In addition to being an essential skill in being able to feed yourself, cooking is also a skill that provides opportunity for building friendships and community. Who doesn’t love getting to know a new friend over a home-cooked meal?
5. The kitchen is a great place to teach important values
Just the simple act of making dinner at home demonstrates the value of slowness and quality time. As I cook with my kids, I also teach them about valuing food and all that goes into making a meal: how to choose quality ingredients, why nutrition matters, and how the food we eat impacts the environment and other people. Cooking (and sharing a meal together) is a great starting point for many conversations about important values.
The small moments add up
Reflecting on my own childhood, some of my fondest memories are cooking pizza on Friday nights with my dad, baking chocolate chip cookies on the weekends, and making pancakes on Sunday mornings. I want to load my kids up with lots of those memories, too. There are so many great benefits of cooking at home.
Instead of thinking of making dinner as a task or chore, I’ve changed my perspective. Now, I think of it as one of the main ways I can spend quality time with my kiddos. I hope this article helps you to spend more time in the kitchen with your little ones!