Working with your child in the kitchen is a great way to share important skills while having fun. Nothing matches the delighted smile of a young child as they declare to family and friends that they made it.
Grinning ear to ear, they will stand at your elbow as you use a steak knife to cut their first fried egg – the most delicious egg ever eaten, to be sure. This time spent together creates lifelong memories and strengthens family bonds while providing the child with valuable skills.
Keep it fun & simple
There are many age-appropriate cooking activities you can enjoy at home with your child. Like any other lesson, it is best to start small and build from the basics. Provide your child with the names of utensils, pans, tools, and ingredients you use regularly. You can even put labels on things and make a game out of it. Challenge your child to use measuring cups and spoons to explore volume with water or rice.
Watch your child for cues that some aspect of your kitchen routine interests them. Do they want to fry an egg? Maybe they want to peel the carrots. Stirring cookie dough is usually a big favorite. By focusing on what the child is interested in, you will find it easier to move on to more complex recipes later on.
Use a favorite recipe
Many children develop a love of cooking when they start by making something they already enjoy. Rice Krispy Treats, cakes, cookies, pancakes, and fruit salads are big favorites among young cooks.
A chef hat can’t hurt. As you work with your child, show them how to measure carefully and use tools safely. You can also use that time to help them learn about the nutritional values of different ingredients. In time, the two of you can experiment with recipes to see what happens when one ingredient is omitted or others added.
Young children do not always understand the risks involved with cooking. Show your child the correct way to hold a knife and how to turn a pot or panhandle inward, so that it is not sticking out into the walkway. Teach them about stove and oven safety and use any accidents as an opportunity to teach basic first aid.
You can also challenge your child to try to “catch” you doing something unsafe. Children love catching their parents making a mistake. They get to be the hero and you get to demonstrate the appropriate way to respond to correction: not defensive but appreciative.
Your child will also enjoy learning how to make a meal “look” good. Treat it like an art project because that’s what good cooking really is. Show them how to combine colors, textures, and temperatures. According to Betty Crocker, every meal should offer, “Something hot with something cold, no matter what the weather. Something soft with something crisp, they always go together.”
Let them create a family dinner
Read recipes and shop for ingredients together. Show them how to follow the directions, but let them do most of the actual work while you sit back and discretely supervise. Your child will be thrilled to have made dinner for the family, even if you did some of the tasks. The praise and appreciation of family will go a long way to promoting a love of cooking.
You can also teach your child how to set a table, fold napkins attractively and how to use the correct silverware. These cooking skills will be useful to your child their entire life and you will both will be left with fond memories of the time you spent together in the kitchen.