Over at The Homeschool Lounge I was involved in a conversation about having our kids in the kitchen and teaching them to cook. Here are some of the things that I am doing with my kids in the kitchen.
One of my first conflicts (along with the mess thing) is the time factor – it would frustrate me that cooking with them would take so long and I wasn’t prepared to give it that time (which now in hind-sight I consider a mistake!). What I did with them initially was just get them to do parts – they may peel the veggies, chop the salad, or stir the meat while it was browning. I called them my cook’s helper. They learnt the methods instead of learning a recipe – eventually they were able to put this all together and do a whole recipe pretty much by themselves.
I had to learn to talk the whole time – tell them what my hands were doing and what my head what thinking. We do stuff so automatically in the kitchen – I had to slow down in my head to explain stuff to them.
As for the mess – I found the only way to deal with that is to decide to deal with it (keep smiling) but practically was to keep my hands busy. If they were doing it themselves then I’d step away and clean something or measure the next thing. With baking I found that we did double. I did one – they watched one step at a time – and then copied in their bowl. If my hands are busy with my efforts I can’t take over theirs.
In keeping with that I found it easier to have more than one child in the kitchen at any one time. The more happening the busier I was, the less time I had to pick on a child for being slow, or messy. (I know this won’t suit everyone but it worked for me.)
I keep two lists – one list for the things I’m teaching them, and one list for the things they can do by themselves. I make sure that we do one from each list each week thy are cook’s helper.
With a 5yo, for example, I might get them to boil eggs. We’d have a meal that has boiled eggs (Kedgeree, Tuna Mornay) . I’d show them and talk it through the first time, next time I’d get them to do it and I’d stand by, next time – if they were confident – I’d get them to do it by themselves with me in calling distance. If they weren’t confident I’d standby again. Once they’ve gone through this process the recipe goes on their “I can do it” list and I call on them to do that when I’m busy. Eg. I might need some help with lunch one day and I ask my 5yo to boil eggs for everyone.
The ultimate goal is for them to be able to use their cooking skills to bless the family.