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Kids in the Kitchen

June 3, 2012

Kids in the kitchenSo often times we’re too busy or perhaps too nervous to let kids in the kitchen.  It’s too hot, little ones are around, things might splatter and make a mess or, even worse, hurt someone.  I tend to err on the side of super-safe mommy.

My husband, however, taught my son (age 8) to make scrambled eggs.  He really did a supreme job.  Now my son keeps asking me when he can make more.  I still cringe at the thought of him cracking eggs in my freshly mopped kitchen (ok, so it got mopped sometime this week), but he’s done a good job each time I let him try.  And every time he tries, he gets a little better.  It builds self-confidence in our children to let them master new things – especially in an adult domain like the kitchen.

What have we learned teaching children to cook?

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Don’t wait for the perfect time.  It’s sort of like waiting to get married or to have your first child – the perfect time will never come.  Just jump in there and see what your child wants to try.  You might be surprised that he/she is more timid or less fearful than you expected.  Ours have always been one extreme or the other.
  2. Don’t wait for the kitchen to be “ready”.  Unless there are obvious problems (like a socket hanging out of the wall over the sink), go ahead and explain the dangers as you go.
  3. Talk a lot.  Ask lots of questions and explain things.  For example, “What do you think we should do next?  Why?  Let’s look at the recipe/instructions.  First we…, then we will…”.  Not only does this process help them listen to directions, but it helps them with sequencing – something that’s used often in the kitchen.  Besides, the answers to your questions may surprise you or at least give you a good Facebook post!
  4. Go at their pace.  Some kids will take to kitchen activities while others will turn out to be a little more reluctant or lose interest quickly.  If yours are the latter, give them time.  They might just be too young yet.  Just be sure something else isn’t enticing them more at the moment (i.e. video games) and keep inviting them back to the kitchen.  If yours are the former, sometimes it’s hard trying not to hold themScrambling Eggs back.  Try to challenge them with choosing the utensils to use (instead of doing it for them).  For example, have them choose which measuring spoon would be best for the amount called for.  Make them read the directions out loud themselves (even if they don’t want to).  The kitchen is full of math and reading skills – maximize it’s potential!   Also, consider setting goals for individual children perhaps with a mastery “badge” or award at the end.
  5. Try something simple first.  Sort of goes without saying (one reason I left it til last) but seriously, don’t chop carrots the first time you give your child a knife – it’s too hard.  Try something simple, like hard boiled eggs.  Make sure they are successful in the kitchen or their first time may be their last.

What have you taught your children to make in the kitchen?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 3, 2012 5:59 am

    My kids are 13 (girl) and 10 (boy) now, and they have been cooking and helping out in the kitchen for several years. One thing I’ve learned is to be guided by what they want to do. My son, who is very methodical by nature, likes specific instructions – he’ll quite happily do whatever I ask him in kitchen as long as he has clear directions. Last night he wanted to make the salad to go with the dish I was making, and even though he’s made lots of salads before, he wanted me to say “Now get the cucumber, wash it, and slice it…now get the olives, drain them and cut them in half…” etc. Whereas my daughter, who is much more creative by nature is always looking for ways to go ‘off-recipe’, she always wants to experiment with different combinations of flavours, and will get fed up with cooking if I try and control and direct it too much.

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