Teaching children to cook

We have always encouraged our children to learn to cook and become self-sufficient in the kitchen, starting at young ages. (This sounds a lot better than I want them to get their own breakfast and lunch because I don't want to do it, doesn't it?) Even the littlest toddler can help tear lettuce for salad and preschoolers can learn to carefully wield a small knife to cut vegetables. By the time our children are developmentally in middle school, they can each cook a meal by themselves if I need them to. Of course some children are more interested in doing this than others, but the abilities are there. 

This paid off for us significantly when I was expecting G. and L. and pretty much spent the last three months sitting in a chair. It was about all I could do. M. did the grocery shopping with a list I made and M. and B. (with some help from A.) did the cooking. I would direct from the sidelines. 

For a while, I had it set up that each of my older children was in charge of fixing dinner one night a week. This worked when there were just two or three children to cycle through. It seems a bit much to be doing cooking lessons with a different child every night, which is what would happen if I were to re-institute this plan. Since I want my younger children to have the same skills, as I was redoing the jobs list for this year, I decided I needed to add something in. So, I have gone back to another version I have done off and on over the years... the assigned kitchen helper. This year, each of the children (minus R. at this point, but I hope eventually she will get to a point where I can add her in) will take turns helping me in the kitchen. This way they can gain skills without the heavy-duty help that learning to prepare a meal solo can entail. Plus, I get an extra pair of hands. It feels like another way that life is starting to get back to a new normal, and that's good for everyone.

Of course, letting your young children cook is not without its drawbacks. Young chefs are still honing their skills, and if your mother is constantly hovering at your side, accidents happen. And if your parents decide that egg cooking is a good first stove top skill to conquer, then sometimes this happens.

That would be the remains of not one, but two different eggs that were sacrificed for kitchen skills. Who knew that cracking an egg into a frying pan was such a technical challenge?


Carla said…
I have been remiss in this. I was surprised the other day to find out that my 4 year old son didn't know how to make toast! Ack! He can do a load of laundry in the washer if directed on the details (put the setting on whites, etc.), but in the kitchen he's pretty clueless.

Time to add to his educational experiences!
AHH said…
In Pretend Soup, Molly Katzen makes a good point: trying to get real COOKING help from little kids at suppertime tends to stress the cook. They're just not nimble enough to scuttle from place to place and burner to burner as fast as you want them to. She suggests separating "kitchen instruction and a fun project" from actual mealtime prep.
thecurryseven said…

I sat down to write a quick reply, but realized it was becoming a really long comment. I'm going to write out my longer reply as a post tomorrow. Not that I think Molly Katzen is wrong, but I realized I had a lot to say about it. :-)


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