How old should your kids be when you start teaching them to cook? I’ve been asked this by quite a few people over the years and my answer is this: Start teaching your kids to cook
RIGHT NOW. There are are many lessons you can teach your kids even when they are babies…now, don’t give your toddler a knife…that’s bad. Here are a few ways to teach your kids about food, cooking and making healthy choices
Take your kids grocery shopping with you, feed them a snack before you leave the house and bring your patience. Yes, its going to take longer to get through the store but it’s a great time to show your kids all the beautiful produce. Talk to them about all the colors they see as you stroll down the aisle. Some of my favorite days have been at local farmers markets with my kids sampling juicy, red watermelon or crisp apples in the fall. If you can take your kids to a farm, even better. Let them see where their food comes from to help foster a love of pure, clean and unprocessed foods. Teach your kids to wash their hands before (and after handling meat) as well as the produce ) you purchase before they start cooking, food borne illnesses are no fun for anyone (don’t let the water get too hot for their delicate skin. Use separate cutting boards of different colors for meat and produce to prevent cross contamination. A wide, sturdy step stool is your young assistant’s best friend, your little one may not be tall enough yet to reach the sink or counters.
As your kids get older let them help you make their snacks. One of the my kids’ favorite snacks when they were small was honey butter bears. With a cookie cutter I let my kids cut a Teddy Bear shape from a slice of whole wheat toast, spread it with a little softened butter and drizzle with honey. Let your kids help you measure ingredients and talk with them about fractions at the same time, cooking is a great way to work on those math skills. As they get older let the kids increase and decrease recipes for you to teach them how to multiply and divide fractions.
You must use your best judgement when deciding to allow your children to use a knife and the stove. Start with soft fruits and a plastic knife when your kids are in elementary school. Making a fruit salad is a great way to teach knife skills. Teach your kids to make a claw with their fingers tucked in for saftey when holding the food and give the task their undivided attention. Turn the television off, no distractions please. My daughter was about 10 when I taught her how to use a chef’s knife. She’s always been a mature child and has a passion for cooking. My son, however was not allowed to use a chef’s knife until he was 12. I felt he was too easily distracted and needed to mature a bit more before using such a dangerous tool. They must always have permission to knives or the stove and they must be supervised by myself, my husband or a trusted adult.
Meatballs are a great recipe to use for a cooking lesson. The kids get to crack eggs, dice an onion, measure spices, mix goodies like cheese into the ground meat mixture and form even balls with their clean hands. If they are old enough to use the stove (my kids were about 11/12 when I allowed them to use the stove supervised) they can brown the meatballs and simmer them in sauce until fully cooked.
Meatballs makes about 20 – 2 inch meatballs, you can make them any size you like
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds Ground Beef Chuck (80% lean)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Sauteed onions over low heat in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add garlic, stir and let cool.
In a large bowl put ground beef, eggs, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and cooled onion garlic mixture and mix together. Form into balls and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until done.
Simmer in tomato sauce (recipe below) and serve with pasta or just eat them for a snack
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-28ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Saute onion in olive oil until translucent about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and and cook, stirring for about a minute. Add Crushed tomato, dried oregano and salt cook, stirring for about 30 -40 minutes
chewsyloversSeptember 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm (9 years ago)
Can I tell you how much I love the honey butter bears idea!?! I love having my kids in the kitchen with me. It’s my little classroom. I love that your daughter likes to make meringue! I hate it!! It takes foooorreeever.Reply
sweetsavantSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm (9 years ago)
Honey butter bears were the favorite little treat, they still have toast, butter and honey but unfortunately the bears have disappeared. My daughter loves meringue so much especially baked meringue cookies, meringue on top of pie is a close second.
DebSeptember 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm (9 years ago)
My kids are still little but I let them add ingredients to the bowl after I measure them out. They also like to stir and mix with a wooden spoon.Reply
sweetsavantSeptember 24, 2014 at 4:16 pm (9 years ago)
You’re off to a great start, Deb. They’ll be chef’s in no time.
JuneSeptember 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm (9 years ago)
My kids are 7 and 9 years old and they love to help me in the kitchen. It just takes so long to get anything done but it’s so worth it. We’re going to make these meatballs together this weekend.Reply