Cooking Shows Nourish Family with Education, Entertainment

While I don’t like to endorse a lot of screen time, there are moments when television can give me the extra 20 minutes I need to complete the task at hand or to make dinner. Most recently, I combined two birds and found something the children and I enjoy watching, and at the same time it gave me an idea of what to make for dinner: Behold the cooking channel.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Dora the Explorer was teaching my daughter a few Spanish words, and I was so happy that she had replaced the useless purple dinosaur and singing brightly coloured bobble heads. While the show was formulaic and unsophisticated, at least she could learn something useful. Dora and her pals played nicely together, went on adventures, and taught the kids some Spanish.

Soon, my daughter had grown out of the little Latin lady and was becoming entranced by ‘tween programming. There has been little redeeming about the’ tween shows I’ve seen over the last 5 years. Basically, it all adds up to how much attitude can you show friends, teachers and parents.

I definitely don’t want my kids modelling their behaviour , nor do I want to pay an extra $10 a month for kid channels to inject more eye-rolling and sarcasm into my family’s world; that’s my job, and I do it for free.

While there are some shows that aren’t counterproductive, they aren’t productive either. Perhaps we need Dora to grow up on television and keep up some Spanish lessons? Since that isn’t happening, I decided to cut the kid cable package and save myself $120 per year.

In addition to the cost savings, there were other positive results. For one, they started watching less television, when there wasn’t something on that they wanted to watch. This reminds me more of my childhood. Cartoons only played Saturday mornings, or in the evenings for holiday specials. There was very little I wanted to watch on television, but just try to peel me away on Saturday mornings.

Another outcomes was that we now have a new family “channel,” as my kids became open to watching cooking shows with me. Now they ask if they can turn on the television to see what’s on the cooking channel. It’s nice having shows that we all get excited to sit and watch together. It’s become hard to turn on the television without worrying that inappropriate language, violence, gore, or sexual content will be front and centre. Luckily, the cooking channel has yet to show anything negative other than gluttony.

I like that the kids are learning about food, ingredients, and cooking methods. It’s a parent’s dream when children ask to watch educational shows, and the dream gets sweeter when they are entertaining shows as well.

Aside from teaching them cooking skills, I thank “Chopped” for showing my daughter, experientially through their competitors, how to take criticism. In sharp contrast to the’ tween shows that encourage lipping-off at everyone, “Chopped” contestants typically take criticism with a “yes chef,” and little more. This is powerful learning for a girl who is bright beyond her years to internalize that criticism can be constructive, and even if you disagree with it, you don’t need to get all defensive. In fact, there may be a nugget of truth you can learn from criticism, which is typically aimed to make you a better person, not to tear you down.

For my son, I credit “Chopped” for teaching him to say “behind” when he races past me through the kitchen. His spatial awareness is lacking, so seeing the chefs announce their whereabouts when there could be a collision is great for him to model.

I also like that the kids to see both men and women chefs dueling in the kitchen competitions; breaking potential gender stereotypes.

There really has been nothing but upside for us as a family since we cancelled the kid specific programming and turned on the cooking channel.  We’ve all but eliminated stomping and door slamming and the cooking shows have encouraged the kids to become engaged in meal preparation. ‘Tween programming, as they day on our new favourite show… you’ve been chopped!

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