Teaching Your Child to Cook at Any Age
Children are notoriously picky eaters. This can be particularly frustrating if you’re a busy parent, and you’ve just spent your evening cooking up a meal for the whole family.
But, rather than regretting your decision to make homemade gnocchi or baked Caprese chicken, you should try your best to involve your child and find out what they might like for their next meal.
Now, your child won’t be interested in watching you cook for hours on end. Instead, they will want to get some hands-on involvement in the kitchen. This might slow things down at first, but involving your children in the kitchen will develop their cooking skills and ensure that you make meals the whole family will enjoy. So, here’s how you can teach your child how to cook at any age.
Teach Young Children with Teamwork
Younger children might not have the dexterity they need to become your miniature sous-chef. But that doesn’t mean they can’t play a significant role in helping you plate up a tasty dinner. You can still involve them by letting them help you with things like finding ingredients, weighing cheap goods like flour, and setting timers.
By involving younger children in this way, you’re getting them involved in cooking while also teaching them vital teamwork skills. Understanding the value of teamwork is one of the most important steps in a child’s development, and working as part of a team in the kitchen will teach your child how to communicate effectively, build their self-confidence, and develop problem-solving skills.
Invariably, every young child wants to “have a go” with the knife or other dangerous kitchen tools. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about when a child should be able to use a kitchen knife. Instead, you’ll need to make a judgment call based on your child’s responsibility and dexterity. Be sure to provide an abundance of supervision at first, and consider investing in a child-safe knife to avoid any accidents. Start them off with soft fruits like bananas, and slowly work towards developing safe knife techniques so they can chop slippery vegetables like onions safely.
The Best Recipes for Teens
Teenagers require much more involvement in the kitchen to keep them interested. Particularly as many older children already make themselves a few meals a week, and might not be as enamored with the idea of cooking in general. But teaching older children how to cook is still a vital step in their development, as it is a lifeskill they need to preserve their wellness and a healthy weight.
Teenagers are famous for their desire to be independent. However, they probably do not have the skills they need to prepare a full meal themselves. As a parent, you need to walk the tight-rope between supervision and responsibility when cooking with your teen and can do so by giving them specific jobs in the kitchen. Typically, they’ll want to do the “adult” jobs like chopping vegetables or operating kitchen tools like processors and mixers. Just make sure they put the equipment together properly, and ensure they take special care around blades of any kind.
When cooking with your teen, try to opt for healthy, homemade meals over processed dinners. They already know how to empty a can of pasta sauce into a pan, so try making the sauce from scratch instead. This may be more difficult if you live in a food desert, where there is greater access to processed foods instead of fresh produce. But, you can work around this by purchasing frozen fruit and vegetables, or even by gardening a little yourself. You can easily grow a potager in a modest flower bed, and this will teach your teen the value of choosing fresh foods over preserved or processed goods.
Eventually, you can ask your teen to make dinner for the whole family. This is a big step and not one you should pressure them into. But, when you think they’re ready and willing to prepare meals by themselves, you can set them up for success by providing them with an easy, but labor-intensive recipe like a homemade pasta bake. Getting them off to a successful start will motivate them to cook more in the future, and can help build their sense of agency and autonomy.
A Little Emergency Prep
Accidents happen in the kitchen all the time. Most accidents, like dropping a mixing bowl, burning the toast, or spilling the soup are harmless and can be fixed with little more than a hand brush and a trip to the grocery store. But, you need to do your utmost to ensure that major accidents don’t occur while you or your child are cooking.
You can preemptively prevent an emergency by having regular conversations with your child about things like food safety when cooking. This can reduce the chances of them catching foodborne illnesses through undercooked food or cross-contamination in the kitchen.
But, as a parent, you also need to have a full emergency plan in place in case of a major disaster like a fire in the kitchen or an accident with cooking utensils. This should include things like regularly changing the batteries on fire alarms, and keeping a medical emergency kit nearby with contact information for your doctor and small first aid supplies like bandages and ibuprofen. This will ensure that your child is protected while they learn to cook, and will give you a little more peace of mind while you watch them chop up the onions.
Cooking with your child can be stressful at first. But teaching children how to cook will give them the skills they need to become healthy, happy young adults with the ability to cook tasty meals for your whole family.
Introducing young children to cooking with low-risk tasks like finding ingredients and weighing them out. When your child develops more dexterity, consider giving them a child-proof knife so they can help you chop soft ingredients. As your child goes through the metamorphosis of adolescence, you can give them access to the freedom they crave by entrusting them with cooking an easy meal for your family and praising them for their effort and the meal they’ve produced. Just be sure to do your emergency prep beforehand, and have a backup meal in mind in case it all falls apart.
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