My daughter was about 2 1/2 when this picture was taken. Her favourite dish then and for at least 10 years afterwards was macaroni and cheese, so she started learning how to make it as soon as she could. Please note the safety precautions taken: the pan is NOT on the stove, but on a hot pad on the counter, and the pan has a non-heat-conductive handle; she’s standing on a firm step stool, positioned such that the steps aren’t behind her so she’s unlikely to fall off backwards; she’s wearing a toddler-sized apron. (When she advanced to doing things at the stove, we added custom-made child-sized hot mitts. Yes, I made them.)
I mention all this now because we’re coming up to the summer holidays here in Britain, and of course they’ve already started in the US. Many parents will be looking for new and different low-cost ways to occupy the children, particularly on days when the weather is bad.
The kitchen is a great place to start. Begin by making something everyone likes, whether it’s a meal or a treat food. Not only does it give each person something fun to do, but it’s practical, too. It doesn’t have to cost anything more than you would normally spend, basic cooking skills are learned, ‘chores’ are shared out, confidence develops, and usually you get to eat the results right away. It also helps to avoid Picky Eater Syndrome. So if you haven’t already encouraged the children in your family to be useful in the kitchen, there’s no time like the present.
For added inspiration for young children, consider buying a kids’ cookbook, or check one out of the library. Or do a quick search on line (‘children’s cookbook online’ just brought up over 3.7 million results).
Older children and teens could be assigned a regular weekly meal slot, where they plan the menu, perhaps shop for the ingredients and do the cooking. If this is incorporated into your normal routine, by the time they are young adults, they’ll be ready to fend for themselves in the kitchen.
When did you start cooking?