A Guest Post by Dan Scalco.
If you have kids and you aren’t already teaching them how to cook, it’s something you should truly consider doing. There are a lot of benefits to getting into the kitchen with your kids and teaching them the basics of cooking up a delicious and healthy meal. For one, it’s an essential life skill that they’ll need to learn at some point in their lives to survive (unless they’re ordering takeout every night).
Cooking is also a great opportunity for family bonding. When you and your kids are in the kitchen, you’re able to spend time together and collaborate to prepare a delicious meal you can all enjoy afterwards. Plus, cooking is a chance for your kids to explore their creativity. They can experiment with new dishes and tastes all while learning to be disciplined in their practice of this new craft.
If you’re ready to get your kids in the kitchen, I’m sharing five easy and fun ways to teach your kids how to cook.
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1. Start Watching Fun Cooking Shows to Get Them Interested
If your kids aren’t currently showing any interest in cooking, you can help get them interested by watching cooking shows together. The Food Network actually has multiple television shows that feature children competing in various cooking competitions (Chopped Junior is our favorite). It’s an opportunity to show them other kids who are their age and busy in the kitchen preparing great meals.
Besides the cooking shows with children, there are many others that are family friendly and fun for everyone to watch together. Try planning to watch a couple episodes during your next family night. Watching these shows can spark their interest and possibly inspire them to start cooking. You can view these shows together and talk to your kids afterwards about it, as a way to get them into the kitchen.
2. Start Small With the Basics
When you’re teaching your kids how to cook, it’s important to start with the basics. You don’t want to intimidate or overwhelm them right off the bat. You should start small instead of jumping right in, which can lead to unhappy kids if they’re feeling overloaded with new information and things to do. However, what you choose to teach them will typically depend on their age as you want to ensure they’re being safe in the kitchen.
To begin, you’ll want to teach your kids proper kitchen etiquette. You want to make sure they know to wash their hands with warm, soapy water before beginning with cooking. It’s so simple, but it’s essential for healthy, safe cooking! From there, you can move onto easy tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and how to mix ingredients. You can even experiment with baking and using cookie cutters. Tasks like this are perfect for kids who are aged three to five.
For children who are six or older, they can tackle more involved tasks like peeling potatoes and vegetables, breaking eggs, and chopping fresh herbs (with blunt kitchen scissors). It’s also great to teach them how to beat eggs, how to check the internal temperature of meat for safe consumption, and how to boil water. There are so many simple things they need to learn first.
Don’t forget to teach your kids how to clean up afterwards! You’ll want to show them how to clean pots and pans, wipe down countertops, and maybe even load the dishwasher. Kids should also learn how to put away the leftovers so they’ll have them for the next day. Those basic kitchen rules are so important to learn at an early age.
3. Let Your Kids Choose the Recipes
If you really want to get your kids excited about cooking, it’s a good idea to let them pick the recipe you prepare. When they get to choose something they’re looking forward to eating, they’ll enjoy the process of cooking it much more. They’ll know there’s going to be a delicious reward they actually want once all the hard work has been completed.
You can go online and search for kid-friendly recipes that are easy to make. This will ensure nothing is too complex and that you and your kids can easily whip it up in no time at all. Select a few great options you know your kids would enjoy eating and present it to them. It’ll be so satisfying when they can say they’ve learned how to prepare one of their favorite dishes.
4. Try a Meal Delivery Service
Another great option is to try a meal delivery service. There are plenty of subscription services that send recipes and pre-portioned ingredients straight to your doorstep. These services make dinnertime easier and they’ll be great for teaching your kids how to cook.
Using a meal delivery service will have kids preparing ingredients by washing them first and possibly chopping up any vegetables. You will, of course, want to make sure you are supervising your children during this stage. From there, all they have to do is follow the directions printed on the recipe card.
Many of these services, like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, provide very thorough recipes with a full ingredients list, step-by-step instructions, and pictures. They’ve made it easy to follow along, so your kids should have no trouble preparing the meal. One of my personal favorites for learning to cook healthy meals (that are also fun to prepare) is Home Chef. While a little less known than some of the “big guys”, their meals are just as delicious, healthier, and a little less expensive. Perfect for families!
5. Let Them Cook by Themselves Once They’ve Gotten Better
Once your kids have learned the basics and developed some confidence in the kitchen, let them take the reins. While this might be a bit scary for you, it’s important to give your kids the freedom to take control. It helps strengthen their confidence in building proper cooking skills, which can help reaffirm their interest in cooking.
You will want to supervise them during this process, but try not to interfere too much. Simply let your kids know that you are there and you can jump in and help if they need it. You don’t want them to be afraid to ask for help, but you want them to feel safe when it comes to exploring the kitchen.
To get them started with cooking on their own, you can begin with a simple meal like breakfast. Once their skills have gotten better, you can slowly evolve into more complex dinner meals. In time, your kids will be master chefs in the home kitchen!
About the author of this guest post:
Dan Scalco is a columnist at Inc, Entrepreneur, and the Huffington Post. He writes about how to live a healthy personal and professional lifestyle. In his precariously free time, he blogs about cooking at FoodBoxHQ.com.