Yesterday I forgot to put dinner in the crockpot. I texted my daughter and said, “Please start the beef stew,” and came back from my meeting to beef stew cooking in the crockpot. This is all because I’ve spent the past several years teaching my kids how to cook. It’s not hard, you can teach kids how to cook, no matter how old your kids are.
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Start Early teaching your kids how to cook
One of the earliest pictures of my boys, they’re standing on a chair and stirring cookie dough. When your kids are young, like preschool age, let them help you mix and add ingredients to your dishes.
What can a preschooler do?
- measure ingredients
- pour ingredients into the bowl
- stir the mix
- break eggs into a separate bowl (this is important just in case there are eggshells)
- put cookie dough onto the cookie sheet
Get them used to the idea that cooking is a part of life, and get them thinking cooking is fun. If it’s part of their life from a young age, it’s not so intimidating.
Once they’re a bit taller, let them cook for real
Next up, in teaching kids how to cook, let them actually cook and use the stove. Now, for my kids, I started teaching this step at five years old, or once they were tall enough to use the stove safely. This is going to be individual for each kid, and I worked towards this for years.
What can an elementary student do?
- cook scrambled eggs
- cook box meals (Macaroni and Cheese or Ramen)
- add noodles to boiling water (I would drain the noodles at this stage because of size)
- cut with a butter knife
Older elementary students learning to cook can do a bit more
- Cut with a sharp knife
- follow a recipe
- put something in the oven (this was totally dependent on size, and my kids were able to take something out in 5th grade)
- cook meat
Middle School students can cook an entire meal
At the beginning of 7th grade, I started my kids cooking dinner once a week. I would take the child assigned to cook for the week out to lunch, and that child would help me with grocery shopping. For ease of explaining, I’m going to pretend it’s Superman (he’s the one cooking this week, and is also the child who least likes to cook).
We leave for an early lunch and Superman picks out a restaurant to eat at. Sometimes we bring a cookbook, but we often pick out a recipe I’ve cooked before and put up on Pinterest or on the blog. This week he’s chosen to cook bake potato soup.
He looks through the recipe and figures out what we need to add to our grocery list, and helps me plan the menu for the week.
The dividends I’m getting from teaching my kids to cook
This aspiration all started when my husband and I both had friends in college who had no clue how to cook. I had a friend who was hopelessly calling my roommate to learn how to make mac and cheese. We swore up, down, left, right, and sideways that would not be our children.
Do you know what the end result of my hard work is? My son wants to be a chef and is working hard towards that, and he cooked the Thanksgiving turkey (using the recipe from the World of Warcraft cookbook).
My daughter made the pies, and my only contribution to the meal was checking in from time to time. It was AMAZING.