Mums who do all the cooking at home could make their lives easier by getting the kids to help in the kitchen - perhaps using some of the skills they’ll now be learning at school.
For the first time ever, practical cookery is part of the national curriculum in primary schools, and new research suggests children urgently need such formal lessons.
More than half of British children are unable to whip up even the simplest of dishes, such as soup, shepherd’s pie or Spaghetti Bolognese without help, according to new research by Sainsbury’s Active Kids.
And while all primary schools are now stepping up to the mark to try to improve children’s culinary skills, kids desperately need even more help with cooking, stresses the Children’s Food Trust, which runs the Let’s Get Cooking programme to teach cooking skills to children and families.
“Over the last 25 years or so, many adults have grown up without the skills to cook healthy meals from scratch,” says Maggie Sims, head of cookery at the Children’s Food Trust.
“Cooking is a core life skill and our aim is to give everyone the opportunity to learn to cook and enjoy good food. We know cooking helps children develop healthy cooking skills and knowledge about healthy eating and, if properly supervised, this can start even with very young children.”
While Let’s Get Cooking is in a club setting, the clubs always involve families and Sims points out: “The influence and the actual skills are shared widely and that includes at home. In fact, as a result of Let’s Get Cooking, 92% of our three million participants said they use their new cooking skills at home.”
There are now 5,000 Let’s Get Cooking Clubs around the country, and the programme also offers accredited training to schools to help them deliver curriculum cooking.
“We welcome the introduction of cooking in the curriculum,” says Sims, “as it’s another major step towards helping children learn a healthier approach to food, to eat better and therefore do better.
“From what we’ve seen in our clubs, learning to cook fosters in children a joy and interest that they take home and share.”
Sims says that as the Let’s Get Cooking network has grown, there are now even Dads and Lads cooking clubs.
“We’ve seen amazing enthusiasm from fathers and grandfathers, with one dad’s professional interest in cookery being rekindled,” she says proudly.
But as well as learning to cook at school and in the Let’s get Cooking clubs, it’s also important to get children practising their culinary skills in the kitchen at home. Let’s Get Cooking gives these tips to help parents get kids cooking:
:: Allow plenty of time. Cooking with children can take up to twice as long as normal.
:: Make sure you have everything you need before you start. Check the recipe carefully and make a list of everything you need, including equipment.
:: Don’t get stressed about mess. Clean up as you go and get the kids to help too.
:: Put some thought into which cooking tasks your child can do - you may need to work this out by trial and error. If you’re cooking with more than one child, decide whether they’re going to take turns or have different jobs.
:: Keep things simple. Try the getting started recipes on the Let’s Get Cooking website to get a feel for how much your children can do.
:: Don’t panic if things go wrong. Even if your recipes don’t turn out like the pictures, you’ll have had fun and learned some lessons for next time.
Sims adds: “Many parents have told us that starting to cook with their children has given them a new opportunity to spend time together, have fun and enjoy trying new recipes and foods.”
The Children’s Food Trust also worked with Tesco to deliver its Farm to Fork cooking sessions to 3,000 children over the summer holidays, after Tesco research found that more than two thirds of parents worried that their children were growing up without basic cooking skills.
Yet, conversely, 52% admitted they spent significantly less time cooking for their children than their own parents did,
And that lack of parental effort in the kitchen has worrying repercussions - the research also found that three quarters of children had never even boiled an egg, and 71% had never cooked pasta.
Tesco isn’t the only major supernmarket that’s trying to address children’s lack of culinary skills - Sainsbury’s has just launched the Active Kids Superstar Cooks competition, which challenges school pupils to cook the ultimate healthy and tasty meal for the chance to win £10,000 of new kitchen kit for their school, plus an exclusive dance class with Ashley Banjo, the Diversity founder and Got To Dance judge who’s fronting the competition.
It aims to get children aged five to 16 cooking, and is supported by free curriculum-linked lesson plans and recipe ideas.
Banjo says he’s loved good food since he discovered it helped make him a better dancer when he was younger.
“Eating well and being active has always been a really important part of my life,” he says.
“I’m passionate about inspiring kids to learn how to cook basic recipes that will help them as adults. They might not grow up to be professional dancers or athletes, but all young people need to understand that eating well will help them feel good and give them the energy to lead full and active lives, now and in the future.”
:: For more information about Let’s Get Cooking, visit letsgetcookingathome.org.uk
:: For more on Sainsbury’s Active Kids Superstar Cooks visit: activekids.sainsburys-live-well-for-less.co.uk/superstar-cooks