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Even when they were very young (about 2), I started teaching my kids about cooking. They loved being able to help, even if it only meant stirring something. I started with simple things that would not be as messy if it flew out of the bowl, but I also used a bigger bowl to make it easier for them.
Then as they got a little older, they were able to help with bigger things. By age 10 to 12, they were well on their way to being good cooks. Never discourage them, that will take away their desire to help.
I made sure they understood that cooking could be fun but was also a quiet time. Then we always made sure we would sit together, and try out the items we made even if it was only Koolaid and a sandwich to begin with. That was a most special time.
You will never regret the time you spent with you little ones. It seems like they grow up so fast. So start them when they are very eager to help you.
By Bev from Longview, WA
I do so agree with you. My children and I loved our cooking times, sometimes we'd go out 'picking' in the morning and then make blackberry cake in the afternoon. Lovely days. When my daughter was a single mum I got to do it with my grandson too. Trouble was, I felt guilty because she was missing out but what else can you do?
Looking back I realize they were practising not just cooking but reading, weighing, measure and working together, things we never thought of at the time, and making precious memories too.
I cooked with my own kids as my grandmothers did with their grandchildren. And I am doing the same with mine. I call my kitchen a science lab. Just cause you have a recipes does not mean you can't make it your own with changes. And we use science, math, technology, every aspect.
Favorite program of my girls is the Food Network. Hey, can we make what they are making? Usually means a run to the store for ingredients. A 4 yr old making potstickers....like it but hated the taste. Knowing what a fish spatula was....we had to buy one. Hungry for granola, watching it, made it.
My girls (6,10) take blue ribbons at the county fair in open class all the time. We bake, cook and can as well. They get the Ball/Kerr award every year... meaning 3 more dozen jars EACH for the next season. (Given to the most blue ribbons in that category. I got purple in canning this year too!)
So, feeding them is one thing. Teaching them to cook is another. My youngest son's friends all wanted him to go to the same college as they. He could cook and they would take care of all apartment work! When 7, one son did a lemon meringue pie, strawberry pie and apple pie, from scratch.
I love this idea of prepared-in-advance, individual servings for a child but mostly for introducing all sorts of healthy new veggies, fruits, and grains to a child, all the way up to age 4 or maybe even 5. I am suggesting to allow the child in on the making of their OWN left-overs-in the muffin tins, and with some on toast squares, some with rice mixtures, some with noodles, some with potato "nests", and a few with potatoes/layered veggies.
(If a parent works, do this on the weekend together. If a stay-at-home mom, seize the days to do the following. If several children, choose a day you can take each one individually to do this project.) After age 5, I find that patiently and individually letting them "help me" with all shopping, preparations, peeling, seasoning, cooking, that they will want to "taste the wonderful food they have prepared!" Hand them a salad fork or teaspoon, with a tiny bite at first. Let them feel that you will not force them to eat new things, "unless they help make it and like it.
Great ideas! I can't wait until my little guy is a bit older and we can have him "help!" I grew up in the kitchen with Mom as did my husband - so we really want him to help and learn.
If you use hard boiled eggs, try this after you have your egg hunt. Let the kids in on more fun rather than letting the eggs go bad. Let them turn their treasures into delicious egg salads. And remember, "Have FUN with it."
By Annalise from Langhorne, PA
Let your children help prepare lunch or dinner. While you're fixing the meal they can put ice in the glasses, set the table, wash and tear lettuce or salad mix, place napkins on the table, etc.