I couldn't resist using this picture.

I learned to cook with my daughter. We started a year and half ago and now both love it. If you follow this blog, you probably already know I didn’t always love cooking. My hubby is a great cook, but me, not so much. Or that is, until I actually started cooking. You can’t call yourself a bad cook until you do it on a regular basis. Once I started measuring flour and sauteing broccoli with my little helper, things just started to taste good. My 3-year old can’t wait to whip up pancake batter or prepare a green salad. She gets out her own plastic knife, cutting board, and stool and is thrilled as she cuts the bell peppers into strips. If you are not already cooking with your kids, check out these ten reasons to bring Olivia and Ethan into your kitchen.

1. It’s QT
My hubby hates the term, “quality time,” but I’m using it anyway. It is one-on-one time that you’ll be spending with your child that doesn’t involve paying bills, folding laundry, or checking your iPhone (guilty as charged).

2. You get “shotgun” and screen time takes a back seat
They won’t be playing the Wii, watching Little Einstein, texting their BFF, facebooking god knows who, or laying around the house saying they’re bored.

3. “You got mad skills!”
Learning to cut, measure, whisk, grate, fold, preheat, pulse, whip, and beat are skills they will use for the rest of their lives. If you have a son, his future wife is thanking you now. Nothing is more attractive than a man who can cook!

4. The grocery store is not the magic beanstalk
Kids need to know what’s in their food, what all the ingredients look like and where food comes from. Contrary to popular kid belief, food doesn’t just come from the grocery store . In order to make a muffin, it requires many ingredients, along with time, money and patience. This is also a wonderful opportunity to start teaching the differences between ingredients: why one carton of milk is different from another or what “organic” means. Kids will learn to read labels and select high quality ingredients when you shop.

5. “I made that!
They will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when everyone gets to enjoy something they took part in making.

6. Fire up the taste buds
It has been shown that when kids help in the garden, they are much more likely to try the fruits of their labor. The same goes for cooking. Bring on the spinach, lentils, cauliflower and whatever else you’ve been dying for them to try.

7.  Free labor
As they get more confident and better with their cooking skills, your kids may actually help you and enjoy being your sous chef.  Here is where it gets interesting: They may even begin to cook FOR YOU. Once you feel comfortable in their skills, designate one night that it their night to cook. They get to pick the menu and you go shopping together. Also, it’s never too early to start thinking about those senior years. Home-cooked food or nursing home food? Ya, that’s what I thought.

8. Reading and arithmetic; who knew?
There are countless opportunities to do a quick math lesson as you cook. Toddlers can learn to count the eggs and number of teaspoons. Grade-schoolers can get a lesson in fractions. Teach them to follow along with the recipe (even before they can read). The minute they can read, have them read the recipe out loud while you take turns getting out the ingredients. Reading a recipe all the way through before you start cooking is a great tip and something you can train the kids to do early.

9. Family history is alive!
Is there a recipe you got from grandma? What about that special way you cook green beans or mashed potatoes? Teach your children to cook the recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. You can invite them to explore the world of their culture too. If you are Swedish, get a book about Sweden and practice making the traditional dishes. There are tons of recipes from every culture online. Are you Mexican but don’t know how to whip up homemade tortillas? That would be a wonderful thing for parents and kids to do together. Don’t have any old family recipes? Make your own and have your kids write them down or type out on a computer. You and your kids can be the start of a new tradition.

10. It’s really fun
If for no other reason, cooking is fun. If you don’t enjoy cooking yourself, get in the kitchen with your child and cook for their sake. Start basic with easy recipes and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find yourself having fun. Little kids love to help and big kids can make a true contribution to the family with their cooking.

Food is something the whole family has to have on a daily basis and you can accomplish so much by cooking together. Your child gets quality time with you all the while learning important life skills and absorbing a few lessons along the way. Jacob and Emma will thank you later.  The bonus? Meals cooked with children are always filled with love. I know it’s cheesy, but food made with love just tastes better.

Image: chimothy27 via Flickr