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Cooking With Kids: How to Get Your Kids into the Kitchen
By building on a child’s innate curiosity and desire to learn, you can teach them an important life skill and make it enjoyable. However, in order to make it fun for both you and your child, there are a few things that, if followed and implemented, will make the process easier for everyone involved.
Help Them Make Things They Like
There are many easy dishes a young cook can make while they are learning to cook. It isn’t encouraging for a young cook to make a dish that they don’t enjoy eating themselves. However, if they make something they enjoy and think others in their family will also enjoy, they are more likely to put time and care into their preparations. For most people, whether they consciously know it or not, food is something that brings people together like few other things do.
Preparing food is one way to demonstrate your care and fondness for other people.
The pride and sense of accomplishment a child received from cooking even the most basic dish for those they care about is something that will stick with them for a very long time. That feeling of accomplishment will keep them wanting to learn as well as encourage them when they are trying something new or difficult both in the culinary world and in other aspects of their lives.
Don’t Worry About the Mess
Cooking can be a messy business and, when making some things, like cookies, the mess is half the fun. Know going into the teaching process that there will be messes to clean up and that your kitchen may look as if it has been through a small hurricane. You should, however, impress upon your young cooks that part of cooking is cleaning up. If you set a good example by cleaning up either as you cook or afterward, it will teach them through example that clean-up is part of the cooking process. One of the best lessons you can teach a child is to clean while they cook so that the mess is under control. However, be prepared for forgetfulness and a few slip-ups while the habit is becoming established.
Bolster Family Support
Nothing will dampen a young cook’s spirits faster than a family who refuses to eat something they worked hard at preparing. While false praise isn’t necessary, it is important that children feel supported while they are learning a new skill and cooking is no different. You may wish to make a rule that everyone needs to try a few bites of everything on the table. In this way, you are teaching the importance of being grateful and respecting the contributions each person makes to the meal.
Be certain to recognize the contributions your young chefs make to the meal and encourage constructive critiques of their addition. Receiving praise and seeing the enjoyment of their loved ones eating their cooking will encourage young cooks to keep cooking and trying new things.
It is essential that the first lesson you need to teach your children is kitchen safety. They need to know how to safely use and handle kitchen tools, such as knives and can openers, as well as how to safely use appliances, such as the stove and oven. They must learn to clean up any spills immediately, particularly if they are on the floor, and be aware of any tripping hazards.
Children must also be taught safe handling techniques for the foods they are preparing. Be certain to teach children how to use the tools that will help them keep their cooked foods safe, such as a food grade thermometer. Part of learning to cook is learning to cook properly so it is important for children to know the steps they must take in order to serve food that is cooked safely and correctly.
Gradually Increase Their Privileges and Responsibilities
As your young cook become more proficient in the kitchen regarding cooking and safety, you must be willing to gradually allow them more privileges in the kitchen. This may mean keeping quiet as they experiment with new dishes or techniques. It could also mean finding a cooking class for them to take after school or on the weekends. For a child who takes a liking to cooking, it may mean making them responsible for cooking the whole meal one evening a week.
Remember to include your young cook in the preparations of holiday meals or food-based holiday gifts. Remind your child that with privileges comes responsibility for the care and keeping of the kitchen and its equipment. If you enjoy cooking, use the shared interest as a special time you can share with that child. Taking a class or attending a demonstration together would be a great bonding experience that you both would enjoy.
Cooking is a life-skill that all children should master before they are required to do it on their own. It is important, however, to make the experience fun for your child or they won’t ever get enjoyment out of cooking; it will always be work to them.
However, by bringing them into the kitchen when they are younger and letting them make meaningful and real contributions to the family meal, you will be showing them that their efforts are valued and appreciated. The feeling of accomplishment a child received from mastering a skill such as cooking will support their ability to take a risk and try other things in life.
Judy Long is a professional is a professional blogger that shares advice on healthy cooking for your family. She writes for RecipeChart.com, where you can find a large selection of delicious recipes.