When you think of all the lessons that you can teach your kids over the years, cooking is most certainly high on the list. It’s more than just teaching them how to cook; it’s about teaching them how to make healthy decisions in the kitchen and prepare meals in a safe and confident manner using a variety of fresh ingredients. If your kids are starting to show an interest in cooking and taking part in the kitchen, there are plenty of ways you can introduce them to it.
Here we’ll take a look at some of those first steps you can take that will ensure that their introduction to cooking is not only fun but also a positive learning experience.
Start Introducing Them as Early as Possible
While you may assume it’s best to hold off until they are a bit older and have a “better understanding” of the kitchen, in reality, it’s best to introduce them to the basics as early as possible. By the age of 18 months, there is no reason they can’t be helping out by mixing items in a bowl, rinsing and cleaning off vegetables and fruits, rolling out items, whisking, spreading stuff like jelly and butter, and even mashing items.
Another activity is to have them help out with setting the table and then clearing the table after everyone eats.
Move from the Basics to More Skill-Based Activities
As they approach the ages of 6-8, they are likely ready for more skill-based jobs in the kitchen. There’s a good chance they have moved past stirring, mashing, and whisking, so this is when you can introduce things such as chopping. You may want to start with soft items first, just to help them build their confidence and skills with a knife.
To get them started, make sure they are high enough to comfortably stand at the counter. Next, work on their grip when it comes to holding the knife and show them the rocking motion they can use. Make sure you also have a proper level and sturdy surface for chopping on, preferably a cutting board such as these wooden ones from virginiaboyskitchens.com. Give them something relatively easy to cut and teach them proper placement of their fingers – out of the way of the knife. Encourage them to take their time and be patient, and they will start to build up their skills.
At this age, they can help you follow along with a recipe, even reading the steps out to, and using simple small appliances in the kitchen.
By allowing your children to help in the kitchen, not only are you teaching them independence, you are introducing them to the STEM principals involved in cooking; starting from the basics of measuring and weighing ingredients, combining elements and seeing how they react all the way up to nutrition and how our body uses food.
Have Kids Start to Pick Out Recipes
Once their confidence and skills grow, they will probably start to become more interested in what it is they are cooking and preparing. This is a great time to give them the freedom of picking out recipes. Maybe they get a designated night each week where they pick the meal and organize it. This can include checking what ingredients are already on-hand and what needs to be purchased, planning the prep time, and any accompanying dishes.
This can be especially great for picky eaters, as it gives them a chance to sample ingredients that they find interesting, and hopefully start to open up their taste buds to other flavors and textures.
Make Sure You Give them Credit
The final tip is to make sure you give them credit for any of the help they are offering and the dishes they are creating. Give them encouragement when things don’t go as planned, and let them know that’s how everyone has to learn and it’s about practice.
Building Fun and Educational Memories
Teaching your kids to cook is one of those great memories you’ll get to cherish as they grow older, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve armed them well so they can make healthy choices in the kitchen and be a confident cook.