There are so many benefits to teaching children to cook. Not only will they learn skills that enable them to feed themselves and others (okay, you), but you’ll also have the opportunity to expose them to a wide range of healthy foods and cultures. And by following a few basic guidelines, you can make cooking a fun and fruitful way to spend time with your kids.
- Consider the age of the child for the given task. A young child (4-8) can stir, measure, break eggs, and cut soft things (butter, cream cheese) with a butter knife. Sharp tools and hot ovens are better suited to older children. No matter what age, kids should always be supervised to ensure safety.
- Take the time to show your kids proper techniques: how to hold a knife to avoid cuts, how to crack an egg, how to lift a lid off a hot pot to avoid burns.
- Teach basics. Knowing how to poach or fry an egg is a building block for later meals. Even learning how to make something as simple as a fruity yogurt smoothie or peanut butter balls will teach kids about healthier alternatives to processed snacks.
- Keep it simple. Start with basics such as biscuits, cornbread, or cookies, and then build up to meals.
- When you’re making dinner, let your child plan the menu. If it’s pizza, for example, buy ready-made pizza dough to save time, then set out all the prepped ingredients for each child to make his/her own pizza.
- Once you’ve taught your kids basic safety rules and techniques, practice hands-off teaching: let them learn by doing, not by watching. Bite your tongue, breathe deeply, remind yourself of lessons learned from mistakes and harmless accidents.
- Set your kids up for success: make sure there is ample time to prepare a dish or meal without feeling stressed, and stock the pantry and fridge.
- Lighten up. A sense of humor is the secret ingredient to having fun while cooking with kids.