3 strategies to maintain children's interest in home cooking post-pandemic
A pandemic study into kids and cooking revealed that not only were more children cooking at home with their parents during lockdown, but that there was a connection between cooking with children and improved diets. Cooking and baking with children increased an all areas apart from the USA.
The popularity of cooking amongst children during the pandemic wasn’t a surprise. Bored kids and the necessity of home cooking combined to create the perfect opportunity to get children involved in the kitchen. What is surprising is just how involved children became in home cooking. A Co-op survey late in 2020 revealed that British children between 5 and 13 were spending an average of 80 minutes a week cooking or baking at home due to the pandemic. Now that our out-of-home eating opportunities have or are about to increase, in-person schooling is resuming and parents are slowly making their way back to the office, it’s inevitable that some children will lose interest in cooking or opportunities to flex their newly formed culinary muscles. Habits formed during childhood have the potential to last a lifetime though, and encouraging children to cook now will informed, engaged home cooks and grocery consumers in the future.
How can grocery retailers and food brands keep children and their parents engaged with the home cooking habits they picked up over the past 18 months?
Share child-friendly recipe content
Recipe inspiration is often the biggest blocker when adults are trying to cook more often, so it follows that it’s an issue when encouraging children to cook too. Curating a regularly updated selection of recipe content that uses child-friendly cooking techniques. It’s best to stay away from content that involves chopping tough vegetables like butternut squash, particularly for younger children, and choose recipes that require mashing, stirring and even cracking eggs. (A skill some adults have yet to master!) Another consideration is that the recipe should be enticing to children. Children’s menus in restaurants are often dominated by ‘beige’ food like chicken nuggets, fries and pizza but children who cook at home are more likely to try different foods. This is an opportunity to introduce children to new fruits and vegetables and since colourful food images are more enticing, children are more likely to be drawn in by a veggie-packed recipe that they would be with an image of popcorn chicken and fries.
Make children the decision-makers
Just like cooking at home can encourage children to try new foods, children are also more likely to do something if they feel like they are in control. Making children the decision makers when it comes to dinnertime is the ideal way to foster a love of home cooking. Child-focused In-store displays or online hubs that put children in control of choosing carefully curated recipe content can give them a sense of ownership over the meal planning journey. Bundling ingredients together in-store or making the online recipe content shoppable makes the process more efficient for parents too, particularly when they’re dealing with indecisive children.
Teach children new cooking techniques
Confidence goes a long way in the kitchen. We know that more people enjoyed cooking during the pandemic than before. We also know that people felt more confident in the kitchen over the same period. Cooking is a lot easier when you know what you’re doing but equally, it’s a lot more fun when you finally master a new cooking skill. Children are not immune to the satisfaction of learning a new skill and cooking technique videos that help children build their culinarily skills over time will turn them into confident home cooks who are set up for a lifetime of confidence and ability in the kitchen. Cooking skills content should be age appropriate – younger children could learn how to crack an egg and build up to learning how to dice an onion as they get older. The age-appropriate nature of these videos is particularly important because if a child can’t master a cooking skill, they may become discouraged and lose interest. Since children are no strangers to screens, many of them will have come across video tutorials in the past, so standing out with fun, clear, child-friendly instructions is vital.
There has never been a better time for grocery retailers and food brands to look to the future by creating a whole new generation of home cooks who will eventually become engaged grocery consumers as adults. Putting strategies in place now to leverage the popularity of home cooking amongst children will pay long-term dividends.