Every child loves to help cook and bake. The magic of mixing ingredients together to produce yummy cookies and getting to spend time with mom or dad in the process of it all creates some fun experiences. It can also become overwhelming when there are too many helpers that create a bigger mess taking more time to cook something than if mom just did it herself. I know. I’ve been there. Actually I’m still there.
When my two oldest were about 5 and 6 I realized the need to create a “battleplan” of sorts to teach them to cook without causing extra stress on my part. I also wrote down my long term goals of skills I wanted my children to learn: cooking and baking, creating healthy menus, writing grocery lists, and sticking to a food budget.
Now that my two oldest are totally independent in the kitchen doing the whole shebang I’ve realized the fruits of my labors have been very sweet. It was a long process but so worth the end result. I’ve gotten quite a few comments and e-mails about how I’ve been able to teach my children to cook and decided I’d make it into a little series of posts running the course over the next few weeks.
Cooking and Baking
Kids of any age can help in the kitchen. As long as you keep in mind their fine motor development, not giving them tasks that are too hard for them to accomplish, and provide plenty of supervision as well as patience mixed with a dose of humor.
Cooking should be a fun, enjoyable activity for all involved. Remebering the following will greatly help to keep cooking fun: it will take longer to cook things, messes will be made, mistakes will be made, but it can be a rewarding experience.
The chores at our house are rotated on a weekly basis. This means each child gets kitchen duty for a whole week, cooking and cleaning. Plenty of opportunity to cook and bake a variety of dishes during their turn.
18 months – 2 years old My little ones begin by helping me to pour and stir. Not only do they enjoy dumping stuff (think of their play in the sandbox here) they also enjoy mixing things together. Sometimes I even let them use their hands. That may sound uncouth to some of you, but little kids really learn by touching and feeling. No harm is done if a good hand washing preceeds the baking.
3-5 years old This age group gets to help do the measuring, learns to crack an egg (in a separate bowl of course so you can extract shells before they get into the batter), wraps potatoes in foil, and chops soft food with a butter knife (olives, bananas, etc).
6-8 years old I start teaching them how to read a recipe and follow it. They also get to start cooking on the stove top with plenty of supervision, help grease pans, fill muffin and cupcake tins, crack eggs by themselves, start using the mixer with supervision, and get to use real knives for chopping fruits and vegetables, grate cheese, etc.
9-11 years old My kids are given more independence in the kitchen. They are taught to use the oven properly. They can usually cook on the stovetop without much help – flipping pancakes, cooking meat, etc. They read the recipes and follow them with very little help from me.
12 and up After having all these years of preparation by this age my kids are able to do everything without my help, including plan the meals for the week and create a grocery list that sticks to our food budget. These areas will be covered in later posts. At this age they also like to experiment with recipes trying different spices or even creating new recipes. Sometimes it makes for very interesting meals. ☺
Any questions or other things you want to know about cooking with your kids? Ask away!