Shopping Cart

Let Your Kids in the Kitchen (Tips for Teaching Children to Cook)

Posted by Theology of Home on
Let Your Kids in the Kitchen (Tips for Teaching Children to Cook)

By Emily Malloy

Education is an essential process of childhood. Simultaneously, an important aspect of parenthood is the cultivation of necessary skills and virtues within children. These younger members of society are like sponges eager to absorb information. Given the ease with which children soak things up, it is vital they are given countless opportunities to absorb the good in a world of chaotic noise.

Kids are also eager to take in food, and typically with a greater voracity than information. If your children are anything like mine, they are always hungry. Herein lies an opportunity to foster creativity, independence, and responsibility.

Parents long for their kids to gain independence and skills, but stymie any growth by not permitting safe opportunities to fail. Mistakes are messy and-- if we were transparent with ourselves-- inconvenient.

But, there are big lessons for both parent and child to be learned in welcoming kids into the kitchen. It is the perfect place for children to experience success and failure, while also good for parents to learn patience and detachment. It will get messy, but it's a good lesson in learning to clean up after. We often quote my grandfather: "a good cook is a clean cook!!".

Cooking along side mom or dad, kids are given the chance watch a grown up potentially fail and survive. Not all recipes are the best and can be trial and error. Or sometimes we make mistakes, too! Children are being gifted the opportunity to try at something unknown and not be afraid to make mistakes, which is immensely important in this world. Being given the freedom to relish in accomplishment, overcome obstacles, or face failure builds confidence. 

It is a special bonding time with your kids. Time spent in the kitchen alongside children has an immense amount of value. From my perspective, it is almost as dear as the time spent as a family around the table.

Let's be honest, children spend a majority of their days mimicking adult behavior. So much of their creative play is spent modeling various aspects of adult life. Helping children develop the skills to cook helps them to satiate that desire of "doing grown up things" and simultaneously gives the parameters for the parent to impart many important life lessons while also teaching the joy that can be found in creativity. 

Parents cannot pass up opportunities to work alongside their children to instill a good work ethic by observation and imitation. Children observe and model the behavior of their parents for better or worse. Including them in the work of the home has a great reward. Eventually kids can work independently and take on some of the burden of chores taking the pressure off of mom and dad.

Where to Even Begin?

Sometimes the simplest way to begin this process is by encouraging children to make or pack their own lunches. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches require a little effort and don't use a stovetop or oven. Help children to understand that certain foods will fill their bellies and give them energy and are worth eating, while other things are fun to indulge in every once in a while! 

Tuna fish sandwiches are a staple in our home. One of my boys has his ratio of mayonnaise, mustard, and relish down to a science. The other kids line up to sneak a taste! 

When kids are ready to tackle cooking over heat, eggs are a great launching point: hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, and many other types of egg dishes. Grilled cheese and pasta are other fun, simple dishes to cook on the stovetop once they are confident making eggs. Also, it never fails to surprise me how tickled kids are when they make a simple baked potato! 

Food prep is another wonderful opportunity to share with children, especially the little ones. There are many "kid-friendly" knives on the market. Teach them to chop vegetables, melt butter in a skillet, and stir to prevent burning. Or how to lightly flour a surface and roll out dough for biscuits! There's a great biscuit cutter in the Mercantile that we just love

My oldest recently graduated to making Dutch babies. What a joy it was for me to watch him follow and execute a recipe. (And an additional joy to eat the delicious fruits of his labor! Yum.)

(Some "real talk": I was out with the horses one afternoon when a certain four-year-old in my home- whom shall remain unnamed- took it upon himself to make scrambled eggs. The process was quickly abandoned by this littlest of chefs after beginning to heat oil in a skillet. We had a bit of a grease fire that could have burnt down our kitchen had his older brothers not acted quickly to put out the fire. Thank God for brave, resourceful kids. Phew. So, learn from my mistake: it is also important to teach your kids about important rules particularly at younger ages, like talking to mom to get permission before cooking!). 

It can seem like an overwhelming task: kids in the kitchen. But parenting involves years of sweat equity; many hours of preparatory work is done to lay a foundation for our children to carry with them through life. Time in the kitchen is no different. But, the reward is worth the process. 

The best part? The basic lesson of cooking is a skill they will carry with them through life. Virtues instilled in the process are a cherry on top. Parents begin to exercise the muscles of learning to trust your children in the "small things" so that we can learn to trust them with the "big things" as they grow. 

Older Post Newer Post