The kitchen is an excellent school for your children. Letting them help you cook, or preparing their own dishes, is a good way of learning new skills while you share valuable time together.
Cooking with Mum or Dad can be the best experience. In fact, good food is one of the great pleasures of life. It protects health, makes a family gathering happy and causes really funny moments. If we teach our children how to cook healthy and homemade food from when they are young, it is highly likely that this very healthy habit remains as they grow older.
Some tips to turn your kids into authentic “mini-chefs”
- Plan the recipe and go shopping
Once the recipe has been selected you can go together to buy the ingredients. Once in the market or in the supermarket you could play who finds the rice or tomato sauce first on the shelves. It is important that they learn how to recognise and choose the vegetables to know what they look like before cooking them.
- Good clean hands!
Remind them that it is very important to 1wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds) before cooking. Tell them that the bugs that are on their hands pass onto the food when we cook and it can make them sick.
- Safety first
Show them what will their “study corner” be, where they will do their tasks safely. Leave knives and sharp utensils out of reach when they are not using them with you and keep a certain distance from the stove and oven when they are turned on. Also, do not forget to keep the handles of pots and pans turned inwards when you are cooking.
- Give them tasks that can be done successfully.
Give instructions that are easy to follow. When more than one child is cooking, assign specific tasks for each of them. Everyone should have a responsibility: read the recipe, mix, stir, garnish, whisk egg whites, bread meat, clean, etc.
- What tasks are more appropriate for each age?
2 years old: washing vegetables and fruit, breaking into pieces with their hands, cleaning.
3 years old: pouring ingredients and mixing them, spreading cheese or butter, wrapping, making meatballs.
4 years old: laying the table, peeling oranges or boiled eggs, breading meat, fish or croquettes, mashing with a fork.
5 years old: measuring ingredients, adding salt and pepper, cutting food with a knife without a sharp point.
From 6 years old: cutting food (under supervision), starting to use appliances (juicer, toaster, blender, etc.), cracking eggs or preparing simple recipes that do not require cooking such as making a salad or a smoothie.
- Let them experiment!
Let them smell, touch and test the different and varied flavours. And do not worry if they spill liquids or stain themselves, practice will teach them to be more careful.
Finally, remember that parents, with our example and attitude, are the best teachers for our children. Teaching them to cook, like everything else, is a matter of time and patience. But you will see how worth it is when you see how proud they are when they eat what they have cooked themselves.
Sources and further information
“Eat Right” Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the American Dietetic Association