Interested in teaching kids to cook but you don’t know where to start? I can help with that. Here are several helpful tips for teaching your kids to cook. But first, you need a little enthusiasm from you and from your little tyke.
Among my son’s favorite movies are all the ones you would expect – The Lego Movie, Batman, and Monsters, Inc. but the one that is maybe his all time favorite is one you might not expect… Ratatouille!
He watches it over and over again. Partly because he loves the rat but more so because he loves to cook! After all, as Chef Gusteau says -“Anyone can cook.” My son has taken that motto to heart and he is in the kitchen with me often. It helps that I cook a lot and enjoy it so I always encourage him to get involved. Cooking with kids is a great way for them to learn about nutrition, math, reading, following directions, and all sorts of life lessons but it is also a heck of a lot of fun and great bonding time.
To help you get your children in the kitchen here are a few thoughts and tips that I keep in mind.
What Parents Need To Know When Teaching Kids To Cook:
FIRST OF ALL – FORGET PERFECTION
Yes, this is hard for me but I will tell you right now that if you are trying to make a soufflé for the big holiday gathering then that is NOT the time to teach little Johnny about baking. Instead, introduce them to something easy like “cookies 101” and let them focus on the process not the end result. Yes you want it to be edible, but if the dough is lumpy or an ingredient falls on the floor, it doesn’t really matter. Kids see things differently than we do and they will be very happy with their completed item – no matter how imperfect it may be. Pointing out the lack of perfection takes away the joy.
Speaking of things falling on the floor…
BE PREPARED FOR A MESS
Kids will spill, knock things over, drop food, and do other things that will mess up the kitchen. Teach kids to be careful when pouring, mixing, and tasting but let them know that it is okay if they make a mess. If they are worried that you will get annoyed by the all the messy chaos they will be less likely to try new activities in the kitchen. But also teach them how to clean up their messes as well and teach them to clean up as they work. With kids, the more mess there is – the more chance they will make even more mess! Getting them to clean up as they go, teaches them great habits for when they start to make more complex recipes.
MAKE IT A START TO FINISH PROCESS
Make a list for the market and take them grocery shopping for the list. My son loves to go through the store and search for the items. It is a like a food scavenger hunt for him. I also use the time in the grocery to teach him a little about math and comparison shopping with prices. It is amazing how many times he will now tell me in the store… ” no dad, let’s get this one because it is a better deal!”
MAKE SURE YOUR RECIPE IS AGE APPROPRIATE
Complicated cooking is not a lot of fun for a six year old if you have to do all the steps and work. Choose a simple recipes where kids can do at least half the steps. Also, don’t make it too time consuming to start. You want recipes in the beginning that you can make in 15 or 20 minutes. Don’t forget the attention span of a typical toddler. They may love the idea of cooking but a complex, time consuming masterpiece will bore them very quickly and ruin their enthusiasm.
LET THEM SMELL, TOUCH, AND TASTE
Part of the fun of cooking is the ability to explore food through different senses. For example, if you’re using herbs, let them smell the plant before and after they cut it up. Or let them taste how foods change in taste from before they were cooked to after. Also, let your budding chefs use their hands to mix things, shape dough, and taste test whenever possible. Kids will stay more engaged when they can literally get their hands a little dirty. Tasting along they way allows them to start developing a sense of flavor and texture and learn how recipes come together. All good things for a good cook to have.
FINALLY – DON’T FORGET THE SAFETY
When cooking with kids, make sure to teach your children the kitchen safety that you and I take for granted. Ovens are hot, blades are sharp, machines are dangerous, and bad hygiene can make you sick. Teaching them the safety basics from the start about food and how to prepare it can save a lot of trouble later on. Adult supervision is equally important! Talk about why they need to wash their hands first, why we don’t mess around with flames or boiling water, and why some foods can not be eaten until after they are cooked and cleaned.
Try using these tips when you introduce your little ones to the kitchen and you will have a culinary master on your hands before you know it. And maybe one who can make a great ratatouille… which I can tell you from experience, is not very easy! Have you tried teaching your kids to cook yet? Any tips you want to share?
Rob Youngblood is an Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Men’s Life & Style Expert, Keynote Speaker, and Communication Coach. Learn more about him at youngbloodonthecoast.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @robyoungblood.