Parenting in the new millennium can be complicated. With the influence of technology and social media, how do we set our kids up to live happy, successful lives? We sift through our options and decide what’s important to help them lay the foundations of their future: education, activity, social skills and life skills. Life skills like; cooking.
Sometimes as parents I believe we underestimate our kids. Even toddlers can help in the kitchen. The more we encourage their interest the faster they learn. Here are a few ideas to involve kids, or grandkids, in your kitchen.
Channelling that ‘me do it’ attitude takes patience and planning. Start with simple tasks like threading fruit skewers. Then move on to peeling and mashing ingredients for dips like guacamole or mixing the pancake batter. Read labels and recipes together and identify fruits, vegetables and other ingredients while shopping.
Foundation skills: Developing motor skills, learning food and flavour, understanding healthy choices.
Fuel their independence at this age with more responsibility. Go through recipe books together, pick a recipe to make. Task them to read it, gather the ingredients and tools, or make the shopping list before you can make it together. Start your big kid with a small knife, making simple cuts like chopping tomatoes and green onions (under supervision) to make wraps, sandwiches or nachos. It’s the perfect age to start cooking simple meals like scrambled eggs. Kids are more inclined to try new things they made themselves so you can push the envelope a little with marinades for fish and chicken.
Foundation skills: Learning the tools of the kitchen, understanding the principles of heat and flavour.
Your tweens are dying to help, so put them to work! Assign the menu planning. Watch for one pot/pan recipes (pastas, soups, stews, roasted chicken) that they can handle with little supervision. At 10 to 12 kids can start handling larger, sharper tools and learning to cut with greater accuracy. They can also easily handle making a salad, boiling, poaching or frying eggs or making pizza dough. As taste buds begin to mature, try more sophisticated flavour combinations.
Foundation skills: Roasting, boiling, frying, poaching, braising, leavening. Cuts: Dice, julienne, mirepoix.
Armed with basic cooking techniques a teenager is more than capable of making full meals, for themselves and for the family. Cooking helps boost math and science skills and builds a healthy curiosity for different cultures. When youth and exuberance join you in the kitchen it is often more cleaning than cooking, but with a foundation of basics, by the time your kids leave for university they won’t starve. In fact, they just might surprise you… with dinner!
With Spring Break approaching check out kid’s cooking camps near you: Both Ottawa’s Urban Element and C’est Bon offer courses for kids, and in the summer months there’s Experimental Farm’s summer ‘Sprouting Chefs’ Camp. (This way they can mess up someone else’s kitchen!)
Looking to inspire your young foodie? Visit the Epicuria store to see what meals and ingredients tickle their fancy. You never know what might spark their culinary creativity!
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