“All kids can be suckered into helping, if they know warm chocolate chip cookies will be the result.”
There is no greater empowerment in the basic life skill department as teaching our kids to cook. It is a gift that keeps giving their entire lives. It is a vital component to independence and maturity to know how to take care of oneself and create a healthy meal. It is creative, and it is fun. Tween aged kids are the perfect companions in the kitchen and should be invited into the kitchen as much as possible to learn basic meal preparation and gain cooking instincts and common sense.
I grew up with swim practice every evening and often ate on the run and in the car during middle school. After that I went to boarding school for high school. I therefore, had absolutely zero basic cooking skills by the time I got to college. People who could cook were like wizards to me. If you could cook me a proper dinner, I would stay by you like a faithful dog (which would explain at least two of my college boyfriends). Learning how to pull it together in the kitchen as an adult has been a hard won skill. I am adamant about having my kids learn at a young age what I did not. Creating meals together have become some of my favorite times with them.
Start with baking. All kids can be suckered into helping, if they know warm chocolate chip cookies will be the result. Make them from scratch. Talk about measurements and preheating the oven. Have them set the timer. Explain the why’s of it all. We spray the pan, so the food won’t stick after it’s cooked. We measure carefully, so the ingredients are balanced. If it’s undercooked, the knife stuck into the center of the cake will have batter on it. These are things we learn through experience.
Make it fun. Play music when you cook. Allow for a little experimentation. What if we put in a little red pepper flakes? Should we saute a little more garlic? Give them room to be creative. Sometimes making mistakes is the best way to learn. Be there for the basics, step back when you can, and try to have patience.
Kids take great pride in creating dishes. They are so proud when you enjoy the food that they prepare. They will actually try new things if it is something they had a part in creating. So experiment with foods from different countries. Go on Pinterest and find new recipes. Print them out and shop for the ingredients at the farmers market on Sunday. Let them be involved with the entire process. When kids have the experience of seeing all of the components of a meal come together, they are learning hard work, self discipline, and appreciation.
Cook with one kid at a time. Trust me on this one. Pairing up may seem like a great idea at first, but it can quickly devolve into an argument, and there will invariably be a battle over bowl licking. Too many kid cooks will definitely spoil a meal. Take turns with each kids. Give them each a chance to show off a little. Maybe inspire a little healthy competition. Either way, you are giving yourself and your kids skills memories to last a lifetime.