With most children now at home after the closure of schools – as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic precautions – many parents are at a loss as to how to keep them busy and entertained without resorting to plonking them in front of the TV all day.

Well, how about getting them cooking and baking in the kitchen? According to a recent article in The New York Times, cooking is a way to talk to youngsters about health, healthy ingredients and healthy eating. It can also bring families closer together.

Donna Verrydt, the organiser of the children’s national cooking competition Taste Bud Battle, says: “Getting kids in the kitchen provides them with practical experience with many essential skills, and cooking as a family brings everyone together and creates a bonding experience.”

So what other benefits are there to cooking and baking with your kids in the kitchen?

• It increases language development since kids are not only learning and talking about different ingredients but also following recipe directions which enhances receptive language skills.

• It enhances fine motor skills. Mixing ingredients, rolling dough and using cookie cutters are all great ways to enhance a child’s fine motor strength and control, which are needed to develop academic skills such as writing, cutting and colouring-in.

• It increases maths skills given that cooking and baking involves a lot of measurements such as cups, teaspoons and tablespoons, as well as fractions and addition and subtraction proficiency.

• It improves reading skills since children have to read the recipes, and it also helps enhance reading comprehension.

• It introduces children to scientific concepts as they learn what happens when certain ingredients are mixed together as well as what happens when the measurements are incorrect.

• It increases focus and attention or the recipe they are following will result in the final product not turning out correctly. Kids learn quickly that they have to pay attention if they want to eat that delicious tasting brownie they wanted to make.

• It teaches life skills and safety lessons such as how to be an independent adult and not to touch a hot stove or how to use a knife correctly.

• It boosts self-confidence. When a child is able to successfully complete a recipe and create a tasty, good-looking dish, they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and it enhances their self-esteem.

The theme for this year’s Taste Bud Battle is Fruity Fun which means the creative options are endless. Entrants can bake with fruit, cook a savoury dish using fruit or even make a dish that just looks like a fruit. Dishes can focus on just one fruit or feature a medley of fruits and fruit can be the actual dish, the accompaniment or the sauce! And remember, some products that you may think of as a vegetable, may actually be fruit such as pumpkin, butternut, chilli, capsicum, cucumber, tomato, olives, aubergine, sweetcorn, avocado and green beans!

Entry for Taste Bud battle 2020 is now open, with four age categories available this year: pre-primary (four- and five-year-olds); junior primary (aged six to nine); primary (10 to 13) and high-school (14 to 19). Full details on how to enter, and stand a chance of winning prizes of over R50 000, are available on the Taste Bud Battle website HERE…

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