For many of us “grown-ups” cooking has become so automatic. We don’t think about all the skills we use when we’re cooking.
Skills like hand-eye coordination, reading, writing, math, science, appreciating nature, understanding nutrition and most importantly — creativity.
Allowing kids to be involved in meal preparation is a wonderful opportunity to let them develop kitchen skills as well as spending some great quality time together.
Oh, and it’s a basic life skill that’s necessary for survival. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that teaching your children to cook is the greatest gift you can give them.
It’s never too early or too late to start, just make sure the task is age appropriate. When you go grocery shopping try to involve the kiddies. Even very little ones can help choose fruits and veggies.
When my kids were younger, I let them pick a new food to try each week. Encourage kids to suggest a meal once a week to make together with you or on their own as they gain experience. This gives them “ownership” and it’s more likely they will enjoy the process.
It seems every kid I know is most interested in cutting stuff up with knives. Depending on the maturity of your young ‘un, let them first try cutting soft things with a plastic knife and progress to safety knives (AKA pumpkin carving knife) before you give them sharps.
Kids should get supervised experience using appliances as soon as they’re responsible enough to do so safely. Teach them to cook on the stove top and oven, with crock pots, toasters and of course, the microwave.
My favorite piece of kitchen accoutrement for kiddies is the dishwasher. Cleaning up is part of the gig and be sure to have kids help store and use up leftovers too.
Last but not least, use each opportunity for a little food safety instruction.
Here are some ideas for beginning chefs. Provide constant supervision for very young children.
Silly Sandwiches – Let your child use cookie cutters to cut amusing shapes out of simple sandwiches.
Frozen Banana Treats – Let the child use a plastic knife to cut a banana into chunks. Dip the chunks into yogurt or melted chocolate then roll in crushed cereal, nuts or sprinkles then freeze. You can opt to skewer the banana pieces on popsicle sticks.
Pudding Pops – Help the little one prepare some packaged pudding mix allowing the child to measure and stir. Pour the pudding into small paper cups, add a popsicle stick and freeze.
For the more experienced young chef:
English Muffin Pizzas – Halve English muffins and spread with pizza or spaghetti sauce. Add your favorite pizza toppings, cover with cheese and broil.
I understand we’re so busy as parents and sometimes we just don’t have the energy it takes to let a young one crack the eggs. But remember, they’re little for such a short time and you only get one chance to make them the best adult they can be.
Take a deep breath and hand them the spoon. You’ll be rewarded by sons and daughters who share in the joy of cooking.
Frugal Family Fun contributed by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADime DotCom.