Teaching Kids to Cook
When I moved out of my childhood home and into my own apartment, I knew how to make a few dishes, namely instant oatmeal, baked chicken legs, spaghetti (with sauce from a jar), scrambled eggs, and hot dogs. Not exactly gourmet fare, but it was enough so that I didn’t starve. As the years went on, of course, I learned how to cook. I’ve been thinking that it would be a good idea to get my pre-teen children into the habit of cooking. Not only could this lessen my load of chores to do, but cooking is a valuable life skill that they need to learn at some point. Here are some ideas that I plan to try:
- Borrow, buy or otherwise scrounge up lots of cookbooks. At our house, we have “learn the basics” type cookbooks, several cookbooks by Rachael Ray and a couple of German cookbooks. My son recently expressed interest in learning how to make Chinese food, so I encouraged him to look for one the last time we were at the library. He’s gone through and made note of a few recipes he’d like to try making, and we’ll be buying the ingredients the next time we go shopping.
- Remember safety first! Teach kids to keep the pan handles turned away from the front of the stove, tie up long hair, wash hands before starting and make sure that meat is fully cooked before serving. These are not one-time lessons; be prepared to remind and check over and over again.
- Give the kids one night per week to cook. If it’s one of their listed chores, they’ll have to do it, or risk eating cold cereal for breakfast and having part of their allowances docked! Of course, this is only a good tip if you’re willing to eat “kid food” for dinner, possibly on a weekly basis. It’s better if you can include the kids in the menu planning and come up with varied recipes for them to make.
- Don’t forget about breakfast and lunch. The first dish that both kids learned to cook was scrambled eggs, and my daughter makes them for breakfast fairly often. They also can make grilled cheese for lunch. More kid-friendly recipes include quesadillas, smoothies, pancakes, homemade macaroni and cheese and tuna pasta salad.
- Don’t worry about dishes being too complicated for young chefs. If you walk kids through even multi-step recipes, they can often get great results, and will have a sense of pride in a job well done!
- Assign someone the chore of being “kitchen helper” each evening. Even if your helper is too little to cook, he or she can do things like washing vegetables, tossing the salad, putting out serving utensils, setting the table and pouring drinks.
- Talk about timing. One of the hardest things to learn, for me at least, was how to get everything to be done cooking at the same time. As you cook, tell your kids when you need to start the rice, or how long you should wait before turning the heat on under the broccoli.
- Have a sense of humor, as well as a few backup quick meals in the freezer or pantry. At some point, kids will make a mistake and serve up something inedible. Don’t harp on it; with any luck (and a bit of supervision), there won’t be many of these episodes, and they’ll get fewer and further between!
What are some kid-friendly recipes that your kids love to make?
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