When I was a child, my mom and stepdad ran restaurants, and while I learned a lot about being a hostess and waitress, I was too small to get into the kitchen and learn the basics of cooking. Then as a teen I lived with my dad and stepmom, but we were so busy that I ate fast food or made a lot of quick meals. Consequently it wasn’t until after I was married that I really learned about cooking techniques. I have found that baking and candy-making are the places where I excel, but I want my girls to learn about all types of cooking.
I have let my oldest daughter (who is six) help me since she was tiny, and she tells me at least once a week that she wants to be a “chef cooker” when she grows up. We watch the Pioneer Woman on the food network, because the food looks good and because she thinks their ranch is fun. We have tried several of her recipes after watching them on the show, and even though my daughter ended up not liking them, the rest of the family did, and that made her proud to be a part of making them.
I realize that cooking with children takes more time, lots of patience and extra clean up time, but it is worth it. I often have to remind myself that it’s okay that flour is flying everywhere, sugar is going to be spilled and I might have to dig egg shells out of the bowl. Not only are you giving them the basis for a skill they can use their entire life, but you get to spend quality time with them working side by side.
Here are some ideas to get you started (this is a basic list that you can adjust based on your child’s abilities):
Under 6 years old:
- • Scrub, dip, tear, break, and snap
- • Shake, spread, and cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter
- • Remove husks from corn
- • Wash vegetables in a colander
- • Measure and pour some ingredients
- • Hand mix
- • Kneading bread dough (you will have to finish this job, but they like to get their hands dirty)
- • Practice identifying the measure cups and spoons
- • Gingerbread house kits. This is great for little kids. (you can buy these after the holidays on clearance and use them later in the year)
7-10 years olds:
- • Cracking and separating eggs
- • Reading some recipes by themselves
- • Inventing their own easy-to-fix recipes
- • Using the electric mixer (with adult supervision if needed)
- • Stirring food over the stove (with adult supervision if needed)
- • Grating cheese
- • Cutting vegetables, fruits, etc. (using a plastic knife or dinner knife)
- • Teach them how to double, triple or half recipes
For Christmas 2011, our oldest was given her own set of kitchen tools and an assortment of children’s cookbooks. She enjoys looking through them and asking me questions. A goal I have for this year is to let her help me with one new recipe a week, and as often as possible I like to let her pick what we prepare. We have a rule in our house that you have to try at least one bite of each dish; you can’t declare it gross based on sight or ingredients. Our girls have found things they love and things they hate this way, and since they know it’s only one bite they do try everything we give them. Children also seem to be more willing to try new foods if they had a hand in preparing it.
Do you have any tips on getting children more involved in the kitchen?