For as much as your kids look forward to having time off from school during the holidays, how often do you hear the words “Mom, I’m booooored” while they’re home? And even if they’re more than happy to occupy themselves with screen time and young adult fiction, aren’t the holidays about spending quality time together as a family?
Since so much of that quality family time is about sharing meals, why not take advantage of the extra time you have together during the holidays to kick off a new family ritual of cooking together?
Research shows that learning to cook helps kids develop a preference for healthier foods. What’s more, regular family meals are associated with benefits ranging from better academic performance to reduced rates of obesity later in life.
So get cooking this holiday season! With these easy-to-follow steps and the right attitude, you may just have a new family holiday tradition on your hands. And if all goes well, your kids will be likely to develop an interest in non-holiday cooking, too.
- Plan in advance: Kids will be more likely to enjoy participating in the cooking activity if it doesn’t conflict with anything else they had in mind to do. Pick a time when everyone is home, such as a leisurely breakfast or late afternoon when boredom typically hits. Suggest getting together to cook at least a day in advance and ask your kids to commit to the family activity.
- Cook a classic recipe: Do your kids love one particular dish that shows up every holiday season? Maybe it’s grandma’s famous sweet potatoes or a holiday cookie recipe you whip up year after year. When they know it’s something they’ve already had and enjoy, they’ll be more likely to participate in cooking. If it’s a relative’s recipe you’ll be cooking, suggest that your kids be the ones to call for the instructions. It will bring them more ownership over the cooking experience and Great Aunt Edna will surely be thrilled to hear from them.
Let the kids pick the recipe: Suggest that your kids explore Pinterest, cooking magazines or recipes like Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and Honey Baked Apple Stacks from The Kids Cook Monday. Giving kids the authority to pick what you’ll cook together brings their voices into the experience and lets them feel proud of contributing to the project from start to finish.
- Better yet, try both! Start with a classic recipe they’ll love and let the kids pick a new recipe you’ll cook together next time around.
- Let them get creative: If your kids suggest altering the recipe, be flexible and let them exert their creativity throughout the process. In most cases, their suggestions will be delicious, but on the chance that the final product is a flop, they’ll still have learned a valuable lesson about cooking. Keep in mind that with baking recipes, the proportions of the main ingredients shouldn’t be altered or else the mixture might not bake properly, but you can always add additional seasonings like cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Talk about health: It’s perfectly alright to make baked goods and desserts together over the holidays. Many kids are more interested in cooking these types of recipes and they can be a gateway to learning to cook healthier fare later on. But take the opportunity to talk about why the holidays are a special time to enjoy dessert recipes and how, by reserving these treats for special occasions, we enjoy them more and have more room in our diets for healthy, delicious foods other times of the year.
- Keep up the healthy habit: Ask your kids what they did or didn’t like about the cooking experience and how you can change the “dislikes” into likes next time around. With older kids, talk about the benefits of cooking and eating together and see if your family would be interested in adopting cooking together as a weekly tradition. To jump start your healthy habit in the New Year and keep that feeling of holiday togetherness going all year long, visit TheKidsCookMonday.org and sign up for the free weekly recipe newsletter, The Family Dinner Date.
With the focus being on your family this holiday season, cooking together is a natural fit. If you find that your family enjoys cooking together and you want to help others enjoy this healthy habit too, check out the Kids Cook Monday School Program, which works with local PTAs to introduce a culture of family meals at school.