Some of my best memories as a kid are of the time I spent cooking with my grandmother. She was a baker, by profession, and we would spend hours and hours baking all sorts of scrumptious treats. Holiday cookies and cakes. Homemade donuts and breads. Baking was not her only forte. She was a wonderful cook and she taught me the skills I use to this day. From which tool to use for each chore to separating an egg, sifting flour, measuring ingredients (and the importance of measuring properly). I learned how to tell when things were thoroughly cooked. I learned how to prepare food for presentation. And I learned the sense of accomplishment and joy you receive when your homemade dishes are enjoyed by your family and friends. The possibilities are endless and every kid deserves to learn how to cook for themselves, for sure, but also how to cook for others.
Where Do We Start?
- First off, don’t assume your child knows anything about cooking. Look at them as a blank slate. You will have to start at the beginning… the very beginning.
- Never leave you kids unattended in the kitchen. What is dangerous for adults applies tenfold for kids. It’s up to you to teach them the proper ways to handle utensils and to be aware of the dangers involved when using electric appliances, the stove, or the oven.
- Wash your hands!
- Set up a system of safety. Rules that apply at all times.
- Keep anything flammable away from an an open flame or hot surface.
- Respect a knife. Learn how to handle it. How to walk with it in your hand.
Pick age appropriate knives. Rounded edges for little ones. You can even use plastic if you wish.
- Learn to clean up as you go, or at least make an effort not to make a huge mess.
- If Mom or Dad says something is off-limits, leave it alone. You alone decide what your kids are ready for and where they need more instruction.
- That’s a start… Based on your children, you will know what rules to enforce.
- Just because you kids got it right once, don’t assume they will get it right the next time. You need to be there at all times to supervise. Safety first!
Now It’s Time To Cook
The first thing you need to decide is what to cook. For most kids something simple like a snack is a good start. (I’m thinking celery with peanut butter, crackers with a topping, even peanut butter and jelly on bread.) Breakfast is always good for the beginner. (Here you can learn to make a fried egg, some fresh-squeezed orange juice, and toast.) Once your kids have the basic skills down, you can move on to recipes. Now they will have to learn to follow instructions. Prepare ingredients. Measure and mix.
Again, you, the parent, need to be there in the kitchen with your child. See how well they handle a knife. Are they being careful around heated appliances? Practice makes perfect. Safety first!
Now That We’ve Accomplished The Basics
At this point you know that your child is comfortable in the kitchen. They know what tools to use and how to use them. Safety rules are in place. Both you and your child are ready to tackle a recipe or a full menu plan.
What shall we cook? It’s totally up to you. Is there a favorite recipe that your child would like to try to make by themselves? Is there a special occasion or holiday you’d like to cook/bake for? Check out some cookbooks made for kids. You don’t have to purchase them, try the library first. Let’s not forget about the unlimited recipes available online today. Spend a little time browsing online and see what you can find.
I’ve done a little browsing myself – here are some links for you to check out:
- Kids Recipes from Family Fun
- Recipes For Kids from Cooking with Kids
- Cooking With Kids from the USDA
Be adventurous in the kitchen. Let everybody get involved. Your kids will learn to work as a team. Keep in mind that this is a great time to introduce some new food choices. Sometimes being actively involved in the preparation is all it takes to get your child to taste that certain vegetable or meat they’ve been pushing to the side of their plate for the past few weeks. All of a sudden it becomes their creation and they are willing to give it a try. You can even slip in some conversation about healthy eating.
Have some fun! Make faces on pancakes. Cut sandwiches into shapes. Mix “colors” by using different fruits and vegetables. If you are without an ingredient, see if you can up with a substitute. Maybe it will be even better than the original recipe.
I hope I’ve tweaked your cooking gene. Sure, you’ll probably make a mess. Hopefully it won’t be too bad. More so, I hope you have tons of fun cooking with your kids. Fun. Memories. Smiles.
By Gret Boyd
If you have a recipe or a tip you’d like to pass along, please let us know.
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