Cooking with Kids: 10 Ways to Empower Them in the Kitchen

Kids, no matter where they live and who their parents are, have one thing in common:  they all have to eat.  And at some point, if they hope to avoid a life of dining out, they are going to have to learn to fend for themselves in the kitchen.

But for many kids, the kitchen may as well be a foreign land.  They might wander through to help themselves to a snack, but for the most part they are happy to let the grown ups take care of the actual preparation of that snack.  And because most kids aren’t going to take to the pots and pans without some encouragement, Mother Nature Network’s Robyn Shreeves has come up with 10 ways to give them a little push.

Of course, some of these tips are not appropriate for younger kids and parents will have to be the judge of when their child is old enough to handle a knife or stir a boiling pot of pasta.   But it’s never too early to start helping your kids feel comfortable in the kitchen.

  1. First and foremost, they need to be able to reach the counter.  A sturdy stool for each child is a must.
  2. Teach kids the math of cooking by explaining the markings on measuring cups and spoons and then letting them practice.
  3. Peak their interest in culinary delights by giving them their own cookbook.  It doesn’t have to be a children’s cookbook, says Shreeves, but one full of recipes for the type of foods they like.  Nice pictures help, too.
  4. Teach them how to shop for meals by taking them to the market and letting them help choose ingredients.
  5. Before they climb up and start cooking, teach them the safety rules of the kitchen.  These include the proper way to handle and store knives, making sure pot handles are turned in and how to operate the oven safely.
  6. Teach them what all those weird looking tools and gadgets are for.  Show them how and them let them use graters, openers, peelers, mixers and blenders.
  7. Let them know that food doesn’t actually come from grocery stores.  Backyard gardens and trips to farms will give them big picture.
  8. Older kids should know that plopping raisins on a peanut butter covered celery stick isn’t really cooking.
  9. As they become more skilled in the kitchen, let them have a menu of foods they are allowed to prepare on their own and be clear about which ones they must have help with.
  10. Very important:  teach them that while it’s okay to make a big mess when cooking, they have to clean it up.  Show them how.

I like most of these tips and have one to add:  let them play restaurant.  My 9-year-old, who can prepare several dishes on her own, enjoys making a game out of taking orders, preparing the meals and then serving them up as in a restaurant.  We do this about once a month and it’s a much-anticipated event.

What do you do to get your kids interested in cooking?

Image: Baying Hound/Flickr

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