There are so many things we want our kids to learn; Sports, languages, dance, gymnastics, pottery, karate, swimming, piano. The list is pretty much endless. All of those things are great and have their place, but cooking is one thing that gets overlooked a lot.
If you already read kids belong in the kitchen, then you know all of the research and reasoning behind the importance of teaching our kids kitchen skills. It is a really important life skill and one that can directly benefit you and your family (that’s right YOU!) Sharing kitchen responsibilities is very helpful and liberating in a family.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are getting started:
- Go over the Kitchen Rules: Since it’s your kitchen, you get to make the rules, but make sure everyone feels comfortable and informed NOT terrified of all the potential danger. In our house we have a gas stove, so one of our rules is that hair is always tied back.
- Respect Age and Ability: We have to have reasonable expectations for our children. Choose age appropriate jobs and be encouraging if things are tricky for them at first. If your child is doing really well, don’t be afraid to challenge them even more by having them create a recipe or learn a new skill (like handling a real chef’s knife!)
- Timing is EVERYTHING: Make sure that you pick opportunities where you have a nice reserve of time and patience. If you are feeling rushed or irritable, or your kids are cranky or tired, that’s not the best time to work together. If you set yourself up for failure, you might get discouraged (and your kids will too). Sometimes my kids want to lend a hand but I’m not in the mood for help. I let them know I appreciate their offer, but this time I’d like to work alone. There will ALWAYS be another meal to help with.
- Start Small and Simple: When your children are first learning, they don’t need to be involved in EVERY step. They can begin with something as simple as stirring the pasta as it boils, or pouring in liquid ingredients. It’s better to let them do just one job at first so that they feel successful and build from there.
- Divide Jobs: If you’re working with multiple children, give separate jobs so there is no bickering (Yes kids can even argue about who is going to help you!) If I am baking, my son will get the dry ingredients bowl and my daughter will get the wet ingredients bowl. I once made the terrible mistake of asking “Who wants to beat the eggs?” And both children answered, “ME!!” That did not go too well 😦
- Encourage them to touch “yucky” stuff like meat and fish and poultry: Cooking isn’t all cupcakes and chocolate chips (but those things are pretty great). If you want your kids to one day cook you a chicken dinner, you better show them how! I know adults who STILL won’t touch raw meat, but they will eat it once it’s cooked (how fair is that!) Exposure to these kinds of experiences quickly eliminates all fear or squeamishness. In no time at all, you’ll have your kids happily rubbing butter and salt and pepper over a whole chicken.
Last but not least, have fun! You will be surprised how quickly children become an asset in the kitchen, once they learn safety, patience, and a few basic skills like cutting vegetables! For me, a recent triumph was when my son learned to turn off the gas stove when the kettle was boiling. Now if I hear the kettle whistling I don’t have to tear down the hallway because Fynn will say “I can get it!”