Welcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage. This week we’re talking about cooking with kids.
Do you want your 12 year old to be able to say, “Mom, don’t worry about dinner tonight. I’ll make it.” ? Do you want to be able to ask your 9 year old to go make some bread? Then let your children help you in the kitchen from the time they are little.
I love having children who know their way around the kitchen. It’s a blessing to be able to share the kitchen responsibilities and my kids are much better and more creative cooks than I am.
By the time they are around 5 or 6 most of our children are able to follow a simple recipe for cookies or biscuits and by the time they are 11 they are able to get a full meal on the table, from planning and preparing to making sure that everything is hot when it’s time to eat.
Cooking is complex, but children will learn if you simply allow them to spend time in the kitchen with you.
Whenever I have a task to do in the kitchen I always have at least one or two small children helping. Having a little helper will slow things down, but I can’t think of a better use of my time than to spend it with my kids. I’m not only training a little one to be a big help in the kitchen, I’m also building a beautiful relationship with this eternal being that God has placed in my care.
- For the sake of logistics I usually limit my little helpers to 2 at a time.
- Each little helper has their own small chair or stool to stand on so they are able to see and help.
- Start with simple tasks such as pouring pre-measured ingredients into the bowl and stirring, then move toward more independence such as measuring an ingredient all by themselves or cracking eggs.
- Cleaning is part of cooking so be sure to teach them how to clean-up also.
- The kitchen can be a hazardous place, be sure you’ve been diligent to train your children in obedience before you have them close to things that are hot or sharp.
- When it’s time to stir, hold onto their hands until they learn how to stir without flopping all the ingredients onto the counter or floor.
- Teach them to never measure ingredients over the bowl.
- Teach them the ‘right’ way to do things. (i.e. set the measuring cup with the oil in it down on the counter and get down so your eye is at the level of the oil to see if you’ve measured exactly the right amount) We all use short cuts and they will eventually learn to use short cuts, but until they understand more about cooking (i.e. too much salt will easily ruin a recipe) it’s better that they do things the ‘right’ way.
- Use a small clear bowl for your children to practice cracking eggs, it makes it simple to fish out any egg shells.
As we work, I talk to my little ones. I tell them what different things are and what we’re doing. I explain to them how to get to the bottom of the bowl when they stir, what ground beef should look like when it’s browned, etc.
I let my helper taste ingredients as much as possible. My theory is that they’ll be better cooks because they’ll know what flavor everything has, a side benefit is that they understand that not everything that goes into the bowl or pot tastes nice by itself or in large doses and they’re less likely to snitch without permission. (We also wash hands frequently.)
If we’re making something that involves dough, they get a bit to shape and cook for themselves and of course the cook gets to taste test all of their creations.
As our children become more comfortable in the kitchen and are able to read, we begin to give them more freedom. Instead of helping with a recipe, they are able to follow one on their own. During this stage I’m always available to answer questions and I encourage them to ask if they don’t know.
My best tip for this stage is; don’t look.
Our rule is that whatever mess you make in the kitchen you are responsible to clean up and as long as the kids follow that rule, I try not to comment on how they choose to do things or the mess that they create. I think this is one of the big reasons that my children love to cook and are much more creative in the kitchen than I am.
This is an exciting stage for both the young cook and for the rest of the family. Amber will never forget the amazingly lovely, terrific smelling, special treat of chocolate chip pancakes that she made with way too much salt and just a few weeks ago Alyssa read 2 1/2 cups of flour as 2 half cups of flour and we enjoyed chocolate chip puddles rather than chocolate chip cookies. Mistakes are part of the process and while each of the children have had a big flub, I think that it’s ONLY been one for each of them.
Eventually the children become more skilled in following the recipe and keeping the mess to a minimum and then you have a new independent cook.
Also visit the other moms of many to read their thoughts and ideas:
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For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.