Cooking with Kids Overview
If you want to spend some quality time with your child and teach them a habit that is likely to help keep them healthy throughout their lives, look no further than cooking. Cooking with your child can be pure joy and really enjoyable. Otherwise it can cease to be fun and will cause problems. Remember though that this is all about fun! Make it exciting for your child without pressure of time or pressure to perform. Things will take twice as long as normal, mistakes and spills will be made and you must accept this before you start.
But spending time with your child and showing them what to do and allowing them to have a go themselves will provide them with everlasting memories and skills that won't be forgotten. Motor skills, math, science and reading ability will all be improved as an additional bonus. And of course, you can then show them all about healthy nutrition.
There are many benefits to teaching your child how to cook. This includes improving their self-esteem, family bonding, increasing their food palette and encouraging them to try new foods (kids that can cook are known to eat more fruit and veg). It also teaches a life skill, patience and perseverance, teaches about health and nutrition, encourages reading skills (recipes) and math skills (working out quantities, volumes etc.), teaches about planning and preparation and teaches about geography and different cultures.
Food Safety is one of the first things you should teach your child. This covers the buying, storing, handling, cooking and re-storing of food in a safe manner to avoid food poisoning and infections. See our article here on 'FOOD SAFETY'. This is a good time to show them how to keep the work area clean, both before, during and after the meal.
Basic measuring and weighing techniques should be taught too when your child is old enough to grasp it. See our resources section, there are lots of printable worksheets to help you teach this.
The next stage is to explain basic ingredients and how they are typically used in a dish and then the different cooking methods (steam, boil, stir fry, bake, grill etc.) with the reasons why we might use each one explained.
Next comes how to follow a recipe. Let your child work their way through lots of examples at their own pace. Encourage them to do as much as they can while monitoring their safety at all times.
Like all teaching you'll need to give appropriate tasks for your child's age and don't go for super complicated dishes with a thousand ingredients! Also remember safety comes first. The kitchen is dangerous place. Try and make it a little more child friendly before you start a session! We suggest you read our articles 'KITCHEN SAFETY', 'FOOD SAFETY' and 'BURNS AND SCALDS SAFETY' here. Make sure cleanliness, food contamination and appliance safety is mentioned often and lead by example! Don't allow your child to get bored. Make sure they have something to do and are given a task appropriate to their age level.
Age Related Tasks
ages 2 - 4 tasks will be simple like washing some vegetables, mashing, stirring / shaping a mixture, adding ingredients into a bowl or decorating a cake. Plus a bit of tasting and smelling of course! Try to count items too ( yes sneak in a bit of math!). Even at this young age you can also get them involved in choosing the items from the supermarket.
ages 5-6 Your child should be able to help with setting the table, using a child's plastic knife to cut soft items (cheese, butter etc.). Add in a bit more math and reading of some of the words in a recipe too.
Ages 7-8 Finding the items in the supermarket will also be fun - once they have written up the grocery list for you! Maybe even help let them pay if you have cash - extra counting. At this age your child will probably be able to help out a lot more including some of the simpler kitchen equipment. Measuring and pouring, weighing etc. should be within their grasp too. If their literacy is up to it, they could even copy out or even make up and write recipes with you. You could also ask them to read and choose a recipe themselves from your cookbook. At this age you can introduce the idea of food groups (protein, grains etc.) and try to show them which foods go into which categories and the principles of a balanced meal. They should also be able to do simple meals (toast, breakfast cereals, yoghurt and fruit etc.)
Age 9-11 At this age you should be able to let your child do much more. Your can teach your child how to use most kitchen appliances while stressing the safety implications of doing things wrong. They should be able to use the microwave easily and maybe even start to make basic recipes themselves (while you watch of course!). They may even be able to make up a balanced food group recipe themselves. You will know if the time is right to let them use a knife and start chopping things. Obviously a lot of care is needed here. There are cookbooks specifically designed for children that may inspire them even further.
Teaching your child how to cook can help improve the bond with them and teach them an important life skill. If you try and teach and encourage them to cook mainly with healthy ingredients then that is a huge bonus and will be hugely beneficial to their ongoing health. The key thing is to have fun!
Have loads of fun showing your children how to make a huge variety of dishes including main dishes and desserts from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Some dishes include 'pressed picnic sandwich', 'fajitas', 'easy meatballs', 'mini chicken bagel burgers' and 'spanish omelette'.
Child Food Preparation Video Training Clips from UK Supermarket Tesco. Includes : Slice, Dice and Chop: 'How to Dice an Onion', 'How to Crush Garlic', 'How to Slice a Cucumber', 'How to peel garlic', 'How to Dice an Aubergine', 'How to De-stone Avocado', * Baking Skills : 'How to Whisk Egg Whites', 'How to Separate an Egg', 'How to Whisk Cream', 'How to Fill and Use a Piping Bag', 'How to melt Chocolate', 'How to make pancake Batter', 'How to evenly roll pastry', 'How to Mix and Knead Bread Dough', 'How to cream Butter and Sugar', 'How to Crumb Butter and Flour', 'How to Beat Egg for Egg Wash', 'How to ice a Cupcake', 'How to Cut Dough with a Stencil' * Meal Making Tips : 'How to crumb Meat and Fish', 'How to Sauce and Top a Pizza', 'How to build a Lasagne', 'How to Make Breadcrumbs', 'How to Make Parchment Lid', 'How to grate Cheese'
Tesco UK Supermarket has developed a 'Cooking with Kids' recipe collection with some of the best British Chefs. The recipes are family friendly. Main Meals include: 'chicken fajita kebabs', 'one-pot roast chicken and chorizo', 'campfire chilli and coffee con carne', 'marinated chicken strips with cucumber relish', 'sweet potato gnocchi with tomato sauce', 'spaghetti and meatballs with mini garlic bites', 'bacon stuffed spuds' and 'sausage and baked bean casserole'. * Light Meal and Snacks: including 'fish cakes and avocado', 'sticky chicken wings', 'popcorn chicken', 'Indian potato cakes', 'vegetable puffs', 'ping-pong balls with chive yogurt', 'mini beef and houmous burgers' and 'mixed berry freezies'. * Deserts and Bakes: including 'yo'berry crunch', 'red ice, raspberries and vanilla ice cream', 'baked stuffed apples', 'crunchy nut cereal bar', 'victoria sponge cupcakes', 'wholemeal soda bread with no cook strawberry jam', 'citrus and almond cake', 'rhubarb smoothie topped with custard and granola', 'speckled chocolate cornflakes', 'strawberry sundaes' and 'pineapple kebabs with lime crème fraîche and toasted coconut'.
Nourish Interactive has produced lots of printable worksheets to help children get to grips with Cooking. There was 82 at the last count with items including "Measuring Tools - Cups and Pints", "Food Safety Rules Checklist For Children In The Kitchen", "Kitchen words vocabulary sheet - Oven" etc.