Why it is so important to get kids into the kitchen!
Proud Mama Moment
Last night was a really proud moment for me as a mum. My lovely, soon to be twelve year old daughter made and decorated the most incredible unicorn cake – all by herself! It looks the bomb, tastes amazing and it’s gluten free too.
Granted, this morning my kitchen looks as though the supermarket exploded in here and it might take some time to get the scarlett food colouring out of the worktop but hey. She had the best time baking, icing, and decorating this beauty with her best friend and is super proud of herself. They researched it, followed a recipe, baked safely, chose the decorations and even made a better buttercream than mine!
Start Them Young
Ever since my kids could hold a spoon they have been involved in the kitchen. From licking the bowl to cracking eggs, balancing on a stool at the kitchen worktop my kids have been comfortable in the kitchen since their toddler days. It wasn’t a decision I made consciously, baking and cooking was such an integral part of my own childhood that it seemed only natural to do the same.
I remember vividly starting university and meeting a girl who didn’t realise you had to cook pasta, another guy who didn’t understand why his tea tasted disgusting (he hadn’t boiled the water and had left the tea bag in!) and another gorgeous (but clearly unsuitable) boyfriend who thought that crisps came from a magic factory without a potato in sight.
It’s not just about survival skills
But learning to find your way around a kitchen as a kid is about so much more than general life skills and being able to punch above your weight in the girlfriend stakes. Getting kids into the kitchen gives them confidence, allows them to explore their creativity, introduces them to new tastes, and gives them a precious understanding of where food comes from and how ingredients go together.
Amazing food from simple ingredients
With the modern abundance of pre-packaged crap and sugar laden convenience foods, it is so important to teach kids that you can make amazing food from simple ingredients that tastes just as good and almost always waaaay better than something that comes out of a packet.
Tips for getting kids into the kitchen whatever age they are!
- Perfect jobs for preschoolers
- Stirring cake mixture and mixing flour and butter together for pastry
- Sorting out dried fruit or berries into bowls and counting them out (great for fine motor skills and learning numbers too!)
- Mashing bananas or cooled cooked potatoes (this is seriously messy but always a favourite job)
- Tearing up fresh herbs
- Putting cupcake cases into tins
If your kids are slightly older try…
- Weighing out ingredients and helping work out the amounts if you need to make a double batch
- Chopping up fruit with a safe knife (please be sensible and supervise appropriately)
- Cracking eggs (I always get mine to crack them into a cup first and then add to the mixture to avoid crunchy cakes!)
- Setting the timer and being responsible for telling the grown up when to take something out of the oven or off the stove
- Getting their hands right in the mix when making burgers or dipping chicken or fish goujons. As long as they understand they need to be careful to wash their hands this job is brilliant! Not only does it get them involved in real food but it can help to stem squeamishness about handling and eating meat or fish if it is something that is just ‘normal’ to do as a child.
- Write a shopping list and be responsible for picking ingredients. If you can throw in a trip to a local market then even better!
- Rolling out pastry or biscuit dough
- Icing biscuits – let them go to town and clear up later!
Tweens and Teens
- If you have involved your children in cooking from an early age, they will naturally start to ask for more responsibility. I’m all for this provided it is supervised appropriately. My tween daughter is allowed to put cakes into the oven to bake, she makes a mean pasta sauce and is confident to safely boil pasta (although I still drain it).
- This is a great age to teach them simple knife skills such as how to chop an onion or peel a potato. There are plenty of knives that are specifically designed for children.
- Give them a simple meal to make all on their own. A simple picnic with sandwiches and hummus with bread sticks or veg sticks is a perfect start, or what about breakfast in bed. Nothing dangerous is involved in the prep but the sense of achievement is amazing.
- If you are worried about letting them loose on a full cake or meal, try doing a trial run with them and then letting them have a go, knowing that you are there to help them if they get stuck.
Then one day, they will surprise you, and turn out an instagram-worthy unicorn cake and not need your help at all!