As I wrote here a few weeks ago, my family has a new Sunday night dinner tradition where the kids take turns choosing the menu and then helping me with the meal prep. Bit by bit, they are picking up some kitchen skills and I have learned a little bit about cooking with kids too—there are some safety issues to be aware of and then there are some ‘patience and enthusiasm’ issues. But it’s definitely an investment in their (our) future so I am trying my best to impart in them some good cooking knowledge.
On the safety front, there is a lot to learn about food contamination, fire hazards and knives, and it can be a bit overwhelming. So I’ve started with a few key safety lessons:
- Always start by washing your hands, and wash them every time you handle raw ingredients.
- Never cook alone—make sure an adult is with you to help.
- Keep pan handles facing in—never out towards the floor where they can be bumped and spill.
- Wear an apron to protect your clothes and you from spills
- Wear short sleeves, as long sleeves have a greater chance of getting dirty, touching raw ingredients or worse falling into boiling water or catching on fire.
As to keeping them enthusiastic, I’ve found a few key principles go a long way:
- Let them choose at least a few of the dishes to keep them more engaged in the menu
- Be patient and let them enjoy the process as much as the outcome
- Think carefully about what steps they can help with and make sure you are ready to fill in the prep gaps so the recipes come together on time
- Be prepared for a little more mess than usual—just think of it as a good opportunity to teach the all-important ‘clean as you go’ and ‘clean up spills so no one slips’ cooking principles
What have been your lessons learned from cooking with your kids?
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