In planning a variety of different engaging activities that parents can participate in– side by side with their kids, collaborative culinary adventures are certainly among the best. Not only does involving your children in the process of meal preparation gently encourage them to expand the range of foods they generally consider to be acceptable for eating, but it introduces them to math and science concepts in a fun way. It’s best to engage in a little advance preparation, for insuring the most seamlessly successful experience. It doesn’t hurt to also have a general idea of each participating child’s dexterity and limitations. Even the most enticing kitchen fun can quickly turn into mood-shifting catalysts, when a child is allowed or asked to do more than he or she is capable of accomplishing. With a little thoughtful planning, a recipe that appeals to the kids– and all the right ingredients on hand, you’ll be looking at a winning cooperative activity that will surely find a place among each child’s best childhood memories.
Three Styles of Children-Staffed Kitchens
The attitudes with which parents approach an activity like cooking with kids can more or less be divided into three groups: The first group is comprised of parents who tend to be more guarded about the level of freedom they’re comfortable with, when it comes to allowing their children’s involvement in the various cooking processes. The second group is much more lenient, allowing their children just as much freedom for hands- on participation as possible. They take over any tasks that fall obviously beyond the child’s capabilities, and they strive to sustain decorum by giving explanations and limited guidance throughout the whole process. The third type of parental style allows the child chef the most freedom–in fact, these parents work hard at making sure their children enjoy complete freedom. And not only in the kitchen, but everywhere else, as well. Obviously, the third group would not always culminate in anything recognizable or edible, but there is typically an effort made to justify the outcome has having all its worth from the process, alone. The kitchens of the third group always produce the most significant cleanup effort, as well as the most “lost to the great abyss” kitchen utensils.
This article will, for the sake of time, be mostly directed to parents and children found within the second group. Others are more than welcome to make modifications of all or in part, according to their particular parenting style. This is because at the heart of cooking with children, there should be the goal of creating a rewarding experience for everyone involved, along with something delicious and fully ready to eat.
First Things First
You’re going to need a dish, as in the final destination and culmination of all your efforts together. There’s nothing wrong with flatly asking your child to participate in helping you to make a particular dish, but it really ought to be something the child finds appealing. This makes excellent sense, when you think about it. You might introduce your child to cooking with something relatively easy to prepare, without too many different steps, like baking cookies. When possible, allow your child to select the exact type of cookies you’ll be making. Find the best recipe, with your child right there, and if your child is in school, or has been enrolled into one of the new vegan culinary schools for younger ages, encourage him or her to read as much of the recipe as they can with you. Otherwise, read the recipe aloud, taking time to explain or ask questions about each step.
Let’s Go to the Store!
If the list of ingredients will require a trip to the supermarket, when time allows, have your child accompany you to the store, and once there, encourage him or her to think about where each of the items might be located, or if they ever remember having seen where these things are kept. Even when their guess might be wrong, there’s nothing like allowing them to make the mistake and discover on their own, their misconception. It’ll be something they never again forget. More adventurous, but equally fun is to give your child the lead in “inventing” a recipe, but only adding your wise direction when absolutely necessary, to stay on the “edible” side.
Back in the Kitchen
Kids love having their own apron to wear while cooking–in fact, the more ceremonious you make the process, the more they’re gonna love it. Most children don’t have the best angle to the countertop when standing directly on the floor, so make sure to provide them with a stable, secure stepstool or device well-suited for the purpose. Kitchen chairs that can withstand little feet and cooking spills will suffice, with the back pushed up against the cabinet, but the thicker the seat’s padding, the less stable your little chef will be.
Your child can help you locate and get out measuring spoons and cups, bowls, mixing devices and ingredients. Again, here’s a great opportunity for you to ask your child what he or she thinks will be needed– based on the recipe, conveniently located where you can see it, and to which you can refer at anytime. If there’s any prep work like greasing or greasing and flouring a casserole, you might want to perform the flouring, but your child will love doing the greasing, which may need your experienced finishing touches. Explain why greasing, flouring or lining a baking dish with aluminum foil is necessary. Let your child watch as you turn on the oven and set the temperature, using this opportunity to discuss safety and to never operate the range without mom or dad. So, now, all aproned-up and at the ideal height, let the “cooking” commence!
Chopping, Measuring and Mixing
A child with a knife sounds scary, and your decision to allow your child to help with chopping should be based on his or her dexterity level and disposition. They all want to cut something and believe they can, but once the measuring, pouring and mixing begins, they’ll forget having missed the chopping segment. Let your child see that you are referring to the recipe whenever you do it, and read aloud, encouraging them to ask questions and discuss the process. You might ask your child to share any ingredient additions or modifications he or she thinks might improve the recipe in some way.