Ever since I had my first baby I’ve wanted to get my kids in the kitchen cooking with me. My oldest daughter Cate was eager to cook as a toddler, but as she grew older her interest waned. My next two children are much more interested in cooking, sticking around for the whole process and wanting to get really involved. As a result, they often spend more time in the kitchen with me than Cate.
Cate, however, is getting older. She is starting 5th grade this fall — the same age I was when I cooked my first recipe on my own: my Grandma’s brownie recipe. This last summer she and I decided to try an experiment. Cate was in charge of planning and cooking dinner for a whole week!
The purpose of the “Cate Cooking Week” was two-fold. First, Cate would get an idea of what it’s like to plan a weekly menu and then execute that menu. She knows that I do this on my food blog every week, and that meal planning and cooking are both a big part of my life. I think it’s always a good thing for kids to get a taste of what their parents do!
The second goal was simply to get Cate cooking! So … what happened when my 10-year-old was in charge of dinner for a week? Cate and I both walked away from the experience with some big takeaways!
Cate’s Top Takeaways
1. “Cooking is funner than I thought.” (Big thumbs up!)
2. “It’s important to stay safe in the kitchen.” As the witness to her cooking, I can definitely say she was careful and thoughtful about safety, and I’m glad this is something she felt she learned during the week.
3. “It’s important to have a good cook so you can have good food.” I love that she is connecting the dots between ability in the kitchen with the quality of the final product.
4. “I learned how to cook better and not make a mess.” Okay, so, apparently a lot of my guidance while she was cooking involved ways of preventing big messes. (Can you tell I might be a little obsessed with a clean kitchen?) But I am also happy that Cate feels like she is a better cook now, too!
5. “I love to cook!” If nothing else came out of the week, it was worth it for just that!
My Top Takeaways
1. Cate has a lot more confidence in the kitchen and she is definitely more interested in cooking. I knew cooking on her own would give Cate more know-how and, therefore, confidence. But I also think the very fact that I trusted her to create a meal plan and then make the family’s dinner each night was huge for her cooking self-esteem. Plus, now that she has some new kitchen skills, she naturally wants to cook more.
2. We didn’t eat super fancy food, and it totally didn’t matter. The whole family loved their special Cate dinners! While planning, Cate said she tried to think of food that was easy to make, that she liked to eat, and that she thought would be fun to cook.
Cate decided to make spaghetti, chicken tenders, naan pizza, caprese salad, and tomato soup for her five meals. She spent about 30-60 minutes each night cooking and also made sure we had side dishes for each dinner.
While most of the meals were very straightforward, we did throw in a recipe for the last dinner she cooked: Tuscan Tomato Soup. Cate definitely thought this was the hardest dinner to prepare, but she really enjoyed the process of figuring out a recipe. In fact, she enjoyed it so much she asked to make a recipe for dessert that night, too! Of course I pulled out my Grandma’s brownie recipe! How could I not?! I love those “full circle” moments in life!
3. I realized I have a wealth of knowledge to share with my kids when it comes to cooking. When you take the time to teach others, you discover there are countless tricks and skills you have that you take for granted.
4. We had fun! I think my confidence in her made her excited to help out.
5. I now have a sous chef living under my roof! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. DUH!
Trying this experiment in the summertime, when our schedule wasn’t packed with after-school activities, was key to making it a success, so if you plan to do something similar, pick a less stressful week. I also think it was good for me to be sitting at the kitchen counter, giving instructions on what to do and when to do it. I think Cate would have floundered without that help from the sideline.
“Cate’s Cooking Week” was a hit with everyone in the family and I am SO glad that we did it! When we asked the family what they thought of the dinners, the consensus was they couldn’t tell a difference between my food and Cate’s food, which I think made Cate really happy.
I can’t wait to build on what we’ve started and continue to get Cate more involved with cooking. And, who knows? Maybe I’ll start assigning her a cooking night every week or two. We might as well put all that good learnin’ to work!