How to Use Cooking to Teach Children Mindfulness
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve at least heard of the mindfulness craze. Perhaps you’ve even tried yoga, meditation, or breathwork to cultivate mindfulness in your own life. But did you know you can foster that same sense of peace and calm through cooking?
Those of us who have kids know just how hectic the kitchen can be. Weeknights are especially chaotic in most homes, with parents frantically trying to get food on the table before bed. However, if you can find time to slow down and actually enjoy the process, you’ll find that cooking can be just as effective as a long meditation sesh.
Once you find your flow state, you’ll experience less stress and anxiety, and improvements in self-control, attention, and resilience. The same goes for your kids. Letting them join you in the kitchen can provide these and many similar benefits to their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Here’s How to Use Cooking to Teach Children Mindfulness
Does your family celebrate Hanukkah with homemade latkes? Perhaps you live on the East coast and enjoy lobster bakes and family cookouts during the summer. Why not share the tradition with your kids and invite them into the kitchen. Even fanciful foods like scallops are easy to make and can teach your kids more about their heritage. As they learn about their roots, they’ll develop a deeper appreciation for what they’re making and eating, which is the first step to living more mindfully.
No, your intention shouldn’t be to bake the perfect cake or create the most delicious meatloaf the world’s ever seen. Rather, embrace the mess that’s sure to ensue and set an intention to cook with love and sincerity. If you’re making a family recipe, you can intend to cook with a sense of gratitude for your ancestors. Talk to your little ones about setting an intention of their own that they can focus on while they work.
Another brilliant way to teach children to slow down is to create mindful moments throughout the cooking experience. What does your fresh produce look like when you take it out of the fridge? Does it feel crisp or smell sweet when you cut into it?
Taste test along the way and take slow, deliberate bites together before describing the flavors. Take your time and use all of your senses to enjoy and appreciate both the process and the end result.
Are you ready to get messy? Ditch the kitchen appliances and use your hands to mix, fold, stir and whisk. Most kids learn best by taking a hands-on approach and because the action requires their full concentration, they’ll slip into a more mindful state in no time.
Take a step back as they find their flow and try not to micromanage. Step in to help only if they ask or are reaching for something dangerous, like a knife.
Cooking together as a family provides ample opportunity to discuss nutrition with your kids. That way they develop a more mindful approach not just to cooking, but to eating as well. Instead of labeling foods as good or bad, try the go, slow and woah approach.
If an item is healthy and something they can eat every day, label it a go food. If they should only enjoy it in moderation, label it a slow food to encourage mindful eating. Reserve woah for treats like candy, ice cream, baked goods, and the like so everyone thinks twice before eating them.
The plates, bowls, and cups in your cupboard are there for the sole purpose of serving food, so why not have some fun with them? Mix it up by putting pancakes in a bowl, or ice cream on a plate. Drizzle sauces and sprinkle seasonings over the plate to create different designs and patterns. This is the best part for any kid — or adult — who considers themself artsy.
While you plate the food, talk about portion sizes and how much of each item they should eat per day. Even very young kids can learn that they should limit the amount of pasta they eat to the size of their fist.
Last, but certainly not least, remember to reflect on the cooking process after enjoying your meal. What went well and what went differently than you’d planned? Life’s one big experiment, and so is cooking, so don’t hesitate to discuss your wins and fails in the kitchen. Whether or not things work out, you’ll all learn a lesson in organization, patience, and self-love. Plus, you’ll know how to fine-tune the recipe so it turns out even better next time!
Mindful cooking doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s best to keep the recipe simple and the ingredient list short, especially when you’re cooking with kids. Odds are they’re still learning how to wield a fork or knife, so pick easy-to-make meals that require only basic prep. That way they can find their flow, cook more mindfully, and reap the benefits.