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Help kids cook up a tasty summer and sizzling skills along the way

Cooking with kids sharpens multiple skills, offers heaping spoonfuls of fun, and big measures of quality time with yummy results. Learning to cook is both creative and practical and will serve kids well in countless ways for the rest of their lives.

Most Americans have missed their favorite restaurants and want to support them now and going forward as these restaurants resume restricted dine-in operations in most states. However, recent weeks have also forced many families to spend more time in the kitchen with some surprising results. Among them? Reduced food expenses.

According to Money Under 30, in a post earlier this month by Amy Bergen titled, “The True Cost of Eating Out (and How to Save),” “The average American household spends about $3,000 a year dining out.” While acknowledging some reasons that restaurants are fun, convenient alternatives, the article says, “In many cases, you could make a $15 meal in a restaurant for $5 at home.” They also offer tips for shopping and meal planning.

Not only can cooking and eating at home save money, but it can teach kids how to eat healthy, how to plan and make meals, and how to use math and reading skills to make great meals and treats.

EatingWell offers, “Cooking Skills Every Kid Should Learn by Age 10,” by Hilary Meyer, including kid-friendly cooking projects. The article breaks down skills for ages under 3, 3-5, 6-8, and 8-10. They suggest that even knife skills can begin at a pretty young age using soft fruits (like strawberries) and a butter knife, and that “smoothies are great for kids creatively, mostly because the combinations are endless and they’re all pretty much guaranteed to be delicious.”

“Cooking with Preschoolers” from KidsHealth from Nemours, notes that “Cooking can help young kids learn and practice some basic math concepts and build language skills.” It adds that “…the experience of creating meals with you can help build their self-confidence and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits.”

They also emphasize that you don’t have to stop eating out altogether to save money and that, for example, some subscription meal delivery services offer a happy medium in terms of cost compared to totally at-home, from-scratch meals and also save on shopping and planning.

Their suggestions include “Build basic skills,” “encourage an adventurous palate,” and “help young kids explore with their senses.” They also list “ideal jobs for preschoolers in the kitchen” that include stirring pancake batter,” “assembling a pizza,” and “helping you ‘read’ a cookbook by turning the pages.”

Cooking classes for kids, like many other day and overnight camps, in response to public health measures, are offering online options over the summer, and you might check to see what’s available in your area. For example, Home Cooking New York is offering Virtual Cooking Camps for Kids (10+) in June and July. The classes include flexibility for vegetarian, gluten-free, and nut-free and also include a 15-minute clean-up period “to ensure that parents are not left with a tsunami of dishes at the end of every class.” The offerings range from dishes with guaranteed kid appeal such as macaroni and cheese cups to fare for the whole family including hummus and lemon-rosemary chicken.

Showing kids that cooking is fun is a first step. To help with that, consider a subscription to Anywhere Teacher, School Zone’s online curriculum. (Through the end of May get a free month’s subscription using code HELPMOM.) It includes access to full episodes of the Charlie & Company video series for ages 3-7; among them is the K-9 Kitchen episode where the cast visits a commercial kitchen. One fun food fact from the show is that people have been making popcorn for 5,000 years! Also on Anywhere Teacher is the song “Counting in the Kitchen,” which says, “Soon you can boast, bragging to your friends that you made French toast,” and includes an actual recipe in the lyrics.

Fling open the cupboards, and sample the possibilities for fun and learning!