EXTENDING OUR REACH: Kids in the kitchen


A recipe for personal development

  • Cooperative Extension
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Kim Slotnick, Mitchell County 4-H program assistant

Cooking is an important life skill. Learning the basics of cooking may help young people feel confident in preparing meals at home, which is a healthier alternative to eating out. 

For younger children, cooking at home can foster cooperation and communication with parents and siblings. When there is a batch of cookies at stake, everyone wants to work together. Cooking and baking require tasks that help develop excellent motor skills by stirring, measuring, rolling and sprinkling. 

Preparing a meal or a dessert requires following instructions, which helps children practice reading and math skills. Math can include anything from simple counting to fractions. Even picky eaters come around when they are involved in the process of making something to eat - an additional benefit to having kids learn to cook. 

For older youth, cooking can help develop an appreciation of real food. Preparing a meal from scratch allows them to see the difference between fresh foods and processed foods. Some teens have never cooked anything other than ramen or mac and cheese. Although most college students can find a way to survive, it’s healthier and cheaper to learn how to cook. 

The cooking process can sometimes seem overwhelming with all the tools and terms, but, like anything else, it just takes patience and practice. Learning from mistakes is a key life skill and can be transferred to other aspects of daily living. Also, cooking can help teens develop independence and confidence, and most teenagers always want to show everyone they are independent and ready to be adults. 

The most critical factor in cooking with young people is their physical ability to do the task and their mental ability to comprehend the task, according to the Center for Nutrition Studies. 

Young children may not have the ability or strength to maneuver pots, handle knives safely or remember a series of steps. Start small to help your children get acquainted with the kitchen so they can become proficient. This can be their opportunity to serve their families or friends, with cooking as a way of caring for others. It can become a creative outlet with recipe development or artful food presentation.

No matter how far you or your child take cooking, it provides a beneficial learning opportunity and a chance for praise and encouragement. Everyone loves to do a good job. 


Kim Slotnick is the Mitchell County 4-H program assistant. She may be reached. By calling 828-688-4811 or by email at kslotnic@ncat.edu.