My three children love to cook. No wait – scratch that. Two of my three kids love to cook. The oldest would rather play video games and then eat whatever the rest of us cook. But my 8yo son and my 10yo daughter are right at home in the kitchen, concocting edible creations. My son (who happens to be rather science-crazy) prefers to stand at the stove, stirring, mixing, and boiling ingredients together. He has mastered both the toaster oven and the microwave, as well, and is happy to make grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas for the family meal.
My daughter, who grew up with an Easy Bake Oven like millions of other little American girls, is crazy about baking. She now has her own drawer in the kitchen filled with cute, kid-themed cooking utensils, like a wire whisk made to look like a giraffe. She is now at ease whipping up a few batches of cookies or brownies without any help, and has even managed to bake her own cakes. This October, I’m planning to teacher her how to bake an apple pie, if for no other reason than to teach her about the irony of the expression, “Easy as apple pie.”
It really isn’t too difficult to help kids to get started with cooking. It does involve stepping back and relinquishing control. Mistakes happen. Messes happen. Eggs break. Sometimes the food creations don’t turn out as beautifully as they would if a more experienced adult had made them. But kitchen oopsies are not the end of the world. In fact, if not for a few kitchen mistakes, then perhaps we would not have potato chips or chocolate chip cookies.
Some tips for cooking with kids:
- Let kids choose the type of food to cook or bake, and then guide them toward the simplest recipes. Remind them that they can graduate to more challenging recipes after they master the basics.
- Kid-sized tools in fun shapes and colors not only add to the joy of cooking, but also make the clean-up part a little more fun. Well, in theory anyway.
- Encourage kids to help in the planning. Plan a scavenger hunt to teach them where to find essential tools and staple ingredients in your kitchen. Take them to the supermarket and let them help shop for ingredients or boxed mixes. (Don’t be afraid of letting kids start with boxed mixes).
- Teach kids how to handle emergencies in the kitchen. Keep baking soda handy in case of electric stove fires. Teach basic first aid skills in case of burns or cuts. This basic knowledge will prepare kids to face the potential dangers of food preparation, and help both kids and parents to feel more secure.
- Finally, relax and enjoy the experience. Turn on music in the kitchen. Sing as you wash dishes side by side. Laugh if the batter flies out of the bowl or the cookies burn to a crisp, then clean it up and try again. Keep the stress out of the kitchen, and turn cooking into an fun adventure.