Let’s face it—there haven’t been too many reasons to smile lately. We’ve had our fair share of challenges in 2020. Those hard times make World Smile Day all the more meaningful this year. Friday, October 2, 2020 is World Smile Day. It’s a time for us to do things to bring out a smile in others. In this article, we zoom in on one of the surest ways to bring out that smile—cooking!
Benefits of Cooking
We cook to eat. But cooking is far more than a necessary chore. It brings us pleasure, calms the mind, and just puts us in a great mood. A 2018 meta-study delved into the influence of cooking on psychological outcomes. We learned that cooking is able to improve socialization, creativity, confidence, self-esteem, and overall mood. Let’s drill down on those benefits:
Throughout the course of our day, most of us don’t get many opportunities to exercise our creativity. That changes when we let loose in the kitchen. Even when we are following a recipe, we are able to add our own little twist to make our creation uniquely ours. When we express that creativity through cooking, we nurture a need deep within us. That makes us feel incredibly satisfied.
In the normal course of events, we have to wait to see the fruition of our efforts. When we cook, however, the rewards come much quicker. It often starts with the sumptuous odors that waft through the house when the food is cooking. Then when you pull that baking out of the oven, you get a visual reward. Put one of those muffins in your mouth, and your taste buds rejoice. Then, when others share the results of your time in the kitchen, you get the joy of giving.
You’ve probably heard that the family that plays together stays together. One of the best forms of family play is cooking. After all, it’s a fun activity that affords plenty of opportunity for relaxed communication and cooperative work.
The key to bonding through cooking is to make the cooking session joyful. Allow your kids to get creative. Perhaps you can challenge them to convert a not-so-healthy recipe into one that is better for them.
Start your family cooking session with a brainstorm, and then go shopping with your kids so that they can pick up the ingredients that they need. There is nothing more frustrating than having a recipe in mind only to discover that you’re missing one or more of the ingredients. Plan ahead to prevent that outcome.
When the kids have cooked the meal, it is also a great motivation for the family to eat their family dinner together.
Cooking is a fantastic way to teach your kids about food. At the same time, you may be able to impart some practical mathematics and science knowledge. Often, concepts to do with portions, sizes, fractions, and other quantities are hard for kids to grasp in the classroom. But when they see the practical application of those concepts in the kitchen, the lightbulb often flicks on.
You can make your cooking sessions even more educational for your kids by having them grow their own ingredients. They will get to experience the satisfaction of nurturing food from seed to the dinner plate, understand the natural processes involved, and help themselves develop an appreciation for putting natural, uncontaminated foods into their body.
Getting your children involved in cooking is a great way to teach them how to eat healthy food. Research out of the University of Alberta found that the best way to get children to eat healthier food is to get them involved in food preparation. The lead researcher, Yen Li Chu concluded:
These data show that encouraging kids to get involved in meal preparation could be an effective health promotion strategy for schools and parents.
Cooking is an immensely mindful process. It allows us to slow down and take our time with the creative process. You can enhance this experience by taking in the full aroma of the foods you are working with, experimenting with different food textures and combinations and letting go of your daily concerns.
Getting the Kids Into the Kitchen
Helping your kids learn to cook will make them happy and healthy, while also getting them away from the computer screen. Here are some suggestions to make it happen.
Start Them Young
The younger you get your kids involved in cooking, the more it will become a part of their lives. You can get your two year olds to wash the fruit and vegetables, carry ingredients, and wipe the bench. At the age of three, they should be ready to pour ingredients, shape the dough, and place the offcuts in the garbage bin. When they reach five, they’ll be able to give the egg beater a go and measure out ingredients.
Provide your kids with four or five ingredients, and then challenge them to come up with a new food. You should also provide them with simple recipes for quick, healthy snacks. Go through the nutritional data of some unhealthy foods, like pizza, and then challenge them to make a healthier version.
Take your kids to the library and direct them to the cooking section (641 in the Dewey system). You can also set cooking themes. For example, you could have a Mexican week where you make two or three Mexican dishes during the week and then have the kids create their own version on the weekend. You should also sit down with your kids and watch cooking shows on TV.
Allow Them To Buy Into the Process
Ask your kids what they would like to make in the kitchen. Don’t be put off if they initially want to make a rich, unhealthy dessert. If that’s what gets them interested in cooking, so be it. The following week, you can challenge them to make a healthier version.
Getting your loved ones into the kitchen, or at least allowing them to share in the product of your time there, is guaranteed to put a smile on their face this World Smile Day. Making cooking a part of your family’s lifestyle going forward will keep that smile in place.