What’s for dinner? The phrase that you dread every day. Even if you have a meal plan and know what’s for dinner at some point you will have to cook it. You’re exhausted from work and errands and kids. You would rather just order a pizza, but there is perfectly good food in your house to be cooked. What do you do? Have the kids cook dinner.
Having your kids cook dinner may be a foreign concept to some people, but as kids grow they become capable of performing basic cooking skills. Yes they could injure themselves, but if you teach them the safest way to do things and supervise until you are comfortable with their abilities, there is no reason that kids can’t make a meal from time to time.
Cooking is a valuable life skill. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t learn to cook until they are out on their own, either in college or beyond. Teaching kids to cook will ensure that they can fill a basic need for themselves when you are gone. Not dead, just someplace away from them.
Teaching them to cook when they are still living at home will ensure that they learn the importance of healthy eating and self sufficiency. Plus they won’t be the college student that always burns the pop tarts.
Imagine a world where the parents didn’t have to cook dinner every night. There might actually be time to do other things. Respond to email, pay some bills, fold the laundry or put your feet up and have a glass of wine.
Of course in the beginning you will need to do some supervising to make sure they are being safe while they are cooking, but you could sit at the table and have an enjoyable conversation while they cook. Eventually you won’t need to supervise and then there will be time for other activities.
Teaching kids to cook can be a great family activity. Everyone can have a job and be working together towards a common goal. Quality time spent chopping, stirring, sautéing and roasting is a wonderful bonding experience.
Turn on some music and get cooking. You can work in teams or give each person a separate job. If your kitchen is too small to all be in there together then just teach one kid to cook at a time. You can also move prep into the dining room, if everyone is going to help.
Let Kids Help
If your kids offer to help don’t automatically assume it’s too difficult or dangerous for them. Think about all of the prep and give them a task. Even if it is just handing you things like kitchen tools or ingredients they will be learning. Maybe all they did was hand you a carton of eggs and a whisk, but now they know the process of making scrambled eggs.
Give Age Appropriate Tasks
Obviously you wouldn’t hand a two year old the chef’s knife to chop vegetables, but a seven or eight year old can learn knife safety and how to chop. Younger kids can dump ingredients into a bowl and can mix, though sometimes too vigorously, but they are learning so it’s OK.
Think about your kids and their abilities as well as their weaknesses. This process can hone their strengths and turn weaknesses into strengths. If your child needs to work on fine motor skills have them help by peeling an onion or an orange. Maybe they need help with math have them help with measuring and quantity. If they are a great reader have them keep track of the recipe.
You know your child better than anyone else. You can determine what they can do and when they are ready to move to a more difficult task.
Let kids Determine Menu
If you want your kids to be excited about this process of learning to cook let them decide what to make. In our house we have fancy dinner once a week. In the summer time whichever kid’s fancy dinner it is gets to help make the dinner. The kids get excited, because they chose the whole menu and want to learn how to make it.
Though kids may choose a meal that isn’t your favorite or the healthiest, if it’s something that they are excited about they will be more willing to learn how to make it.
Let Go of Perfection
They’re kids, so they’re not going to do everything exactly how you would or even the right way at first. But, if the way they do things is safe and it gets dinner on the table let them do it. Chopping and slicing uniformly is a skill. A chunky salad may be the result, but eventually their knife skills will be much better.
They will probably make much more mess than an adult would, but that’s part of the learning process. They learn that it’s no fun to clean up a giant cooking mess after the food has been prepared. Coach then to clean as they go and eventually your kitchen won’t look like it was hit by a tornado when they are done.
Let Them Experiment
For those with type A personalities this is a tough one. Letting go of the reigns and letting them try something new can be hard. It could be a complete disaster and a waste of ingredients. It could result in an enormous mess. If we try to control the entire cooking session kids will feel stifled. Yes as parents we can do it faster and better, but if we ever want them to be able to do it themselves we have to let them try and possibly fail.
Our oldest likes to cook and bake and every time he does he tries to come up with a new way of doing things or new ingredients to add. Sometimes I let him do whatever he wants and the results have been hit or miss. Other times I will tell him that his idea may not work or give suggestions for options that may work better. I don’t usually tell him not to try something unless I know it will be an epic fail and lead to major disappointment.
Adding his own seasoning to ramen noodles and discarding the seasoning packet has been a fail. Adding cinnamon and m&m’s to his chocolate chip cookies was a success. If we had stopped him from doing either of those things he wouldn’t learn how to express his creativity through food.
Kid Friendly Recipes
If you are ready to get started on this cooking adventure here are some kid friendly recipes that are easily prepared with little or no adult supervision.
Pancakes (adult supervision with stove)
Scrambled Eggs (adult supervision with stove)
Fruit Salad (adult supervision with knife)
Grilled Cheese (adult supervision with stove)
Mac & Cheese (adult supervision with stove)
Quesadillas (adult Supervision with stove)
Pizza (adult supervision with oven)
Pigs in a blanket (adult supervision with oven)
Cupcakes (adult supervision with oven)
Banana Cream Pie (no adult supervision if using premade crust, instant pudding and butter knife)
Jello (adult supervision with boiling water)
Ice box Cake
Do your kids cook? What recipes do they make all by themselves? We would love to add more suggestions to this list.