This summer I worked on teaching my kids what I called Life Skills. We worked on doing the laundry, discussed money, banks and saving for the future, and we cooked. I wanted to teach them the skills that they will need when they go off on their own – even though they have many years before that becomes necessary.
And one of the skills I think everyone should know is the basics for cooking. They need to know more than just how to use the microwave. I wanted them to be able to read a recipe and plan out a home-cooked meal.
Now this summer wasn’t the first time the kids have helped in the kitchen. They had washed dishes before as well as stirred or added ingredients to a pot. Jase loved to beat eggs for scrambled eggs when he was a toddler even though he didn’t eat the eggs.
And started them off at young age is really the best way for them to learn and be comfortable in the kitchen. Yes, it is easier to banish them from the kitchen so that you can cook in peace. But there are many benefits to inviting them to help.
- Helping in the kitchen can encourage them to try new things. Kids often are willing to try a meal that they helped prepare.
- Working in the kitchen also helps them learn planning ahead. Not only do you need to have all the ingredients, you need to plan it so all the dishes in a meal get down at close to the same time.
- Cooking in the kitchen helps reinforce reading (the recipe) and math (adding and fractions).
- It teaches them to appreciate the chef. Putting a home cooked meal on the table takes time and effort.
- It builds their self-confidence and self-esteem as they learn a new task.
And don’t think your toddler is too young to help. Even small kids can help tear lettuce for a salad or smash crackers to cover the chicken. Here is a link to a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen.
There are also plenty of websites and cookbooks out there with kid friendly recipes and tips for introducing your kids to the kitchen and to cooking.
As for my summer lessons with the kids. They went well. Both of them made a dessert – frosted brownies from scratch for Lexie and cookies for Jase. They learned how to make their favorite meal – Zippy Beef & Mac Casserole.
I also had them each pick out a recipe, shop for the ingredients and prepare the whole dinner. Jase made chicken drumsticks that were a hit with Lexie. He loves French fries so that was part of his dinner though we just used the frozen type. Lexie made cracker chicken and skillet potatoes – two of her favorites.
Yes, cooking with the kids might mean more of a mess in the kitchen and it might take twice as long to make a recipe but I firmly believe the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. With school starting we have slowed down on cooking together but maybe I will start having them help on the weekends.