Teaching Children How To Cook
Homeschooling is all about life, not just the academics. So part of our children’s education need to be “life skills”. Cooking is a great life skill to teach your children – both boys and girls. Because children usually love to cook, cooking with them – although messy at times – can be a lot of fun. Use cooking time with your children to:
- Spend time with your children, talking AND listening to them
- Make memories; decorate gingerbread houses at Christmas, grill outdoors with dad in the summer, decorate Christmas cookes and taking them to the neighbors, teach them all about hospitality
- Reinforce learning; when cooking, children read, practice math, and learn basic chemisty and physics
- Pass along your family history and heritage; all families have recipes that have been passed down through generations – these often come with stories of family members and loved ones that have passed on
- Teach your children a life skill they will need to be successful adults; if you’re children – boys and girls – know how to cook, they will be able to feed themselves and their families in the future
Some of the cooking skills that are valuable for your children to learn are:
- Kitchen and food safety
- How to choose ingredients
- How to use utensils, knives and equipment
- How to measure liquid and dry ingredients accurately
- Cooking techniques
- Meal planning
- Menu planning
- How to shop for food
- How to budget for food and stay within the budget
- Proper table setting and serving
- Good table manners
Establish safety rules
Make sure you establish firm safety rules for cooking and enforce them. Children shouldn’t use the stove or electric appliances until they are tall enough to reach them safely. Sharp kitchen knives should not be used until your child has developed their fine motor skills to use them safely. This usually is around 10 years of age. Make sure your child understands these rules, why they are important, and that they are willing to obey them without question.
Adult supervision is absolutely necessary teaching your child a new kitchen skill. Eventually, your child will become more proficient in their cooking skills and you will be able to start checking on them periodically to see how they are doing. As they grow older and learn more skills, your child will be able to plan and cook a complete meal from start to finish.
Age Appropriate Cooking Skills
It’s great to let your children begin helping in the kitchen at a very young age. Infants and crawling babies always like to be where mom is, but the kitchen might be a little too dangerous. Set them out of the way and give them plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and maybe a pan or two so that your little ones can play happily while pretending to cook with you.
At two or three, let your budding chef stand on a chair or stool next to you and have fun pouring ingredients that you’ve measured into a bowl. They can also help clear the table after dinner by removing placemats, napkins, and trash.
By four or five years of age, your child should be able to:
- spread peanut butter on bread with a butter knife
- tear up lettuce for a salad (make sure you instruct them on the proper size piece)
- mash soft fruit
- wash fruits and vegetables
- stir things together (unless they are hot)
They can also learn to set the table and can begin to learn basic table manners.
Children between the ages of 6 and 10 should be able to:
- use the whisk, can opener and hand egg beater
- measure ingredients and mix them in the right order
A child-friendly cook book with recipes that can be made with minimal supervision would be a good thing to have on hand at this stage.
By age 10 or so, children can usually begin to use the stove, knives and mixer with supervision. Have your child learn to prepare a simple recipe for dinner. This is a great time to start baking – cakes and cookies are always a favorite to eat at this age. Teach your child to set the table properly, including crystal and extra forks.
Let your young teens plan a party. Help them plan the menu, shop and prepare the food for the party. Also, teach them to prepare a simple, easy meal such as spaghetti or taco salad. Give them additional instruction on nutrition and food safety. And now is definitely the time to make sure they clean up the kitchen when they are done cooking.
And finally, when your teens are older, they should learn all about budgeting, menu planning and shopping. Soon, they will be on their own, using the cooking skills you’ve taught them for the rest of their lives.
Teaching children how to cook can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. First of all, your child will acquire essential life skills. Secondly, you might be pleasantly surprised when your teenager makes you a birthday cake all by themselves. And what a joy it is when your children show up for Thanksgiving dinner with a favorite family recipe. And then again, maybe your daughter will call for a favorite family cookie recipe because she wants to make them with her kids too.
Kelly Ling is a work-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has mentored many homeschooling and work-at-home moms over the past eighteen years. Kelly also owes a home-based web design business. When not doing web design, she is constantly updating some of her homeschooling/work-at-home websites – Homeschool Top Sites, ChristianWAHM.com, WAHM Contests, and others.