When many adults recount memories from their childhood, the majority of the time it involves a moment spent with a parent doing an activity. Whether it’s learning to play football with Dad, or Mum teaching you how to tie your shoes. Memories form from time spent together. This is why teaching your child to cook is hitting two birds with one stone: you’re teaching your child about the importance of nutrition, and you’re creating memories that last a lifetime.
Food is the most universally bonding thing on the planet. Food is at the centre of celebrations, at the heart of family get-togethers, used to create new bonds and strengthen old ones; with food we are able to inspire, to enjoy, to create. Food has been shown to play an important role in bonding throughout history, and it’s no different for you and your child today.
When you think of using food to bond with your child, you might think of food thrown everywhere, mess, stress and a lot of cleaning. But it’s worth the hassle we promise! In fact, studies show that families who eat together are healthier, and have lower rates of depression and obesity, and higher rates of cognitive development and self-esteem. This may seem like a tenuous link, but food is fuel: and how you use it in social relationships can power how we use our fuel in life.
A study conducted by the University of Chicago examined why food is so important in social relationships, concluding that it helps to build trust. The researchers found that in a trial, the participants – who were all strangers – were able to form a closer bond with each other, if they cooked together while talking, compared to if they cooked in isolation and talked after. Why this may be is perhaps unknown, it’s likely due to our evolution from hunter gatherer tribes, in which we would contribute to food preparation within a larger group and this would be the basis of our relationships. We are social animals, and food is instinctive.
So how does this link to you and your child? Well again, food is part of life. If your child sees what goes on in food preparation they are part of the wider process. They feel involved, important, integrated into family life. When a child feels like this, research shows they will be better behaved in general, plus eating healthy won’t be a problem. Children want to be involved in cooking so much that a study found that children who watched a child-oriented cooking show with healthy food, were 2.7 times more likely to make healthy food choices, compared to a cooking show with no presenter.
If you want your child to be healthy and happy, form a close bond with them and create memories that last a lifetime – bonding in the kitchen over food is perhaps the best way to do it. Plus you get the highest return on investment: you’re teaching your children the importance of nutrition, how they can eat healthy and how fun it can be to do so.