Teaching your kids how to cook is one of the best gifts you can give them as a parent. Your kids will learn to make smart decisions about food and develop the skills they need to plan and prepare nutritious and delicious meals. Getting children involved in meal preparation is also an excellent way to improve their skills in these areas-
- Fine motor skills- Small movements such as picking up small objects, holding a spoon, stirring with a spatula etc use the small muscles of the fingers and wrists. These fine motor skills will be improved while making food.
- Hand eye coordination– Hand eye coordination is the ability to track the movements of your hands with your eyes. Chopping, squeezing, spreading, and mixing are skills that help develop and improve kids’ small muscle control and hand eye coordination.
- Science- Learning about why we use different leaveners and what happens when they are used in a recipe are great lessons in chemistry.
- Math- Number recognition on mixing bowls, measuring spoons/cups, measuring during preparing; division and fraction while serving pizza or pie are some of the ways to teach math in the kitchen. Oh, and don’t forget addition, 2 eggs+ 2 eggs= 4 eggs ;).
- Creativity-The kids will learn to tweak and develop a recipe. They will also learn about using substitutes that can be used in lieu of an ingredient that’s in a recipe, fostering their creativity in the kitchen.
So, when is the right age to involve kids in the kitchen? The right age is when they are ready to help you in the kitchen with the very basics, like helping to unload groceries, figuring out which food goes where- pantry, fridge or freezer etc. Small actions like these help them take the bigger steps, like looking for a recipe, reading a recipe, measuring and preparing ingredients and finally, making a simple dish or two on his own. So get your kids in the kitchen today and here are the ways to do it-
1. Have a plan-
Planning is important to for a positive and productive cooking experience. Pick a day and time (weekday/weekend) that works best for you and add it to your calendar. I prefer to cook with one child at a time in the beginning to keep things simple. If your child/ren learns better in a group environment, invite a friend or two or have other siblings join you. Start with a simple, easy recipe that’s easy to follow with clear, age appropriate instructions. Allrecipes.com and americastestkitchen.com are two of my favorite go to places for recipes. Don’t forget to check out the ratings and read the reviews for better results. Shop for ingredients of time for the recipe that you’d picked so you have everything ready.
2. Get right size kitchen tools-
It’s always a good idea to get kid size kitchen tools so they don’t struggle while learning a skill. Right size tools can also prevent accidents, specially if you plan on teaching your kids how to cut vegetable -chop/slice/dice etc. I like to use Santoku knife as an all-purpose knife for kids. This 5” Santoku knife has good reviews on Amazon-
And this knife set with 3 nylon kitchen knives comes with great reviews on Amazon.
The other kid size tools you might want to consider buying is a rolling-pin as the regular ones can be a challenge to maneuver.
If the counter-top is too high for them, let them stand on a step stool.
3. Make cooking enjoyable-
So how do you have a successful cooking experience with your kids?
- Give them clear and concise directions they can follow through. Make the cooking lessons age appropriate and suitable for your kids’ learning style. For visual kids, provide them with cookbooks and websites. Auditory learners will appreciate hearing the instructions. Kinesthetic learners will enjoy the hands on learning. You can teach them any cooking skill through succinct, step by step instructions, from how to measure dry ingredients to when a roasted chicken is ready to come out from the oven.
- Repeat instructions with patience and kindness. Don’t compare her beginning with your middle. Don’t keep looking at the clock or rush through the steps so you get to your next task. The laundry can wait and so can the updates on Facebook. Just be present with your child.
- Involve your child in clean up. Show him how to do things efficiently to prevent creating undesirable mess and let him help you to clean up the kitchen.
- Be kind to your kids. Be there for them when they learn from their mistakes. Don’t look for faults or criticize with your words or looks. Focus on positive things and you will have a great time.
- Add some fun to it your cooking lessons. Wear beautiful aprons. Tell them stories from your cooking experiences, how you learned to cook and turned your mistakes into lessons.
Cooking is not about food only. Teaching your kids how to cook inculcates lessons on hard work, power of choices and how to make good decisions. As you kids learn to follow thru a recipe, they also learn to be self confident. Eventually you can give them more responsibilities and will be amazed at how well they rise to the occasion and make a meal all on their own.
I hope you have a wonderful time with your kids while making great food.