Sticky Notes - Stir the Pot of Self-Regulation: Let Kids Lead in the Kitchen!
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Stir the Pot of Self-Regulation: Let Kids Lead in the Kitchen!

September 13, 2023 by Emily Moore
  • Why do chefs always remember to keep their cool in the kitchen?

           Because they remember to "simmer" down!

  • What's a chef's mantra for focus?

           Keep your eyes on the pies!

  • Why couldn't the blender remember the recipe?

           Because it kept getting mixed up!

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Let Kids Take Charge In The Kitchen! 

As a parent or caregiver, it can be hard to know when to give your kid a hand, and when to let them do things independently. Research suggests that sometimes letting kids take charge can have lasting benefits. A 2021 study found that when children aged 4 to 6 were allowed to lead tasks, their self-regulation skills (organization, working memory, staying focused, etc.) improved.

The kitchen often serves as the first authentic classroom for many children, presenting a perfect stage to let them take the lead. So, why not let them?

Empowering Little Chefs

When your child takes the reins in the kitchen, they learn to follow a process, whether it’s measuring ingredients, chopping vegetables, or stirring a pot of soup. Each step requires focus and organization. In other words, it’s a fantastic opportunity for your little ones to practice self-regulation. Remember, it’s not about perfection! It’s about effort, engagement, and growth.

Tip: Provide safe tools (we like these from Handstand Kitchen) and age-appropriate kitchen tasks for your child.  

Building Confidence One Recipe at a Time

There’s nothing like the glow of pride on your child’s face when they serve a dish they’ve made themselves. Not only does cooking boost their self-esteem, but it also nurtures a sense of independence that will serve them well for the rest of their life.

Tip: Celebrate your child’s culinary achievements, no matter how small. Did they crack an egg without shell bits? That’s a win!

Nurturing Lifelong Curiosity and Love of Healthy Foods

Research indicates that when children engage in cooking, they are more likely to try new foods and make healthier food choices. Kitchen explorations can be a stepping-stone towards a lifetime of nutritious eating.

Tip: Put kids in charge of salad dressing! Give them a squeeze-bottle of olive oil, a squeeze-bottle of vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey/sugar. Let them experiment with the proportions. A good guideline to start is a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar, but everyone’s palate is different. Once your child finds the taste they like, make a HUGE deal about "____'s Famous Salad Dressing" and serve it for dinner. Watch your kids gobble up salad! Once they’re comfortable with this process, they can play with adding fresh herbs, dried herbs, and/or spices.

So, there it is – your friendly reminder that sometimes the best parenting move is taking a measured step back. By letting your child take the lead in the kitchen, you provide a delicious, hands-on opportunity to practice vital skills. 

Wondering what to make? Check out our free database of delicious, easy-to-make, kid-approved recipes at StickyFingersCooking.com/recipes!

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