[This article first appeared on Shrink Tank in January 2017]
Masterchef Junior (on Fox and Hulu) has begun! Why should you care? Because this reality competition show can teach your children a whole “mixer” full of skills.
Masterchef Junior is a competitive cooking show for kids aged 8-13. Yes, children are using knives, stoves, and liquid nitrogen. They are conceptualizing dishes and tasting ingredients they have never heard of before. They are chopping vegetables, fileting fish, and baking soufflés.
Whether your children are interested in cooking or not, they will likely be interested in watching kids their own age compete for the coveted Masterchef trophy. And it’s a show parents can enjoy as well. Watching television with your children can be a great opportunity for learning. Although commercials might be annoying, they allow for quality discussion time. Here are some important areas you can talk about together:
Kids are Capable
Many times adults (and kids) underestimate how much kids can actually do. As a parent, it might be difficult to watch your children take on new challenges. You might be afraid they will fail. Or it might be easier just to do something yourself. But the lesson Masterchef conveys is that kids can do a lot! Talk with your child about how capable all children are. If an 8-year-old can create a restaurant worthy Broiled Salmon with Swiss Chard entrée, what else do you think kids can do?
Throughout the show you will hear the kids talk about the person who taught them how to cook. These kids have been practicing their cooking for years. They did not just wake up one day and know how to do it; they had to work at it. With any skill, it takes time to develop. The show depicts the kids facing new challenges and completing tasks they have never done before. This is all about skill development. They are taking on something new in order to learn. You can also discuss how training now will likely impact these kids’ skills in the future. How might they use their skills? What might their future look like?
Since Masterchef is a competition show, a big element of the show is receiving constructive feedback from famous chefs Gordon, Graham, and Joe. Feedback is something your child will give and get for the rest of their lives. It can be helpful to discuss what it feels like to get feedback, how you process the information you’re receiving, and how you can react. All the kids on the show have successes and failures, just like in real life. What feedback do your children receive? How do they handle it?
The kids on this show have actually shown way more support and encouragement than adults typically do on competition shows. During every challenge you hear the kids telling each other they have done a good job or supporting each other when they are down. Whether these kids are on their best behavior because they are on television or just really thoughtful, they model great sportsmanship. Discuss with your children the atmosphere of Masterchef. Isn’t it nicer to be in a supportive, competitive environment rather than a dog-eat-dog one?
Several of the challenges will require the kids to work in teams of two or more. Sometimes the kids work well together and other times it is more of a struggle. But watching others work as a team opens up the discussion about what it’s like to be a part of a team. What is it like to be the leader? A follower? What teams seem to work the best together and why?
Resilience is displayed in many ways on this show. Things definitely go wrong at times. Kids cut themselves. They panic. They mess up. But through all of this, the constant message from the chefs is to keep going. Do the best they can. Keep cooking. The kids show a lot of resilience. They talk about being brave and coming back from disappointments.Even after being told they are eliminated from the competition, they still talk about going home and continuing to cook. They can be proud of what they have accomplished, how much they have learned, and their skills. They don’t have to win a trophy to be good at something and be proud of themselves.