Dealing with a picky eater or a child with food allergies? Needing an extra pair of hands in the kitchen because weekday dinner prep time is so short? Teach your kids to cook alongside you.
I’m no expert though I’ve been cooking with my kids for about 10 to 11 years now. It takes time, and you need to be willing to deal with messes. Start when you’re not stressed about getting dinner on the table, and give your child something simple to do. Even a 3 year old can help prepare a salad by washing the lettuce and scrubbing the carrots.
I start my kids on knife skills around 3.5 to 4 years of age. Usually, they express an interest first, and then we try softer fruits and veggies. I also encourage them to use a butter knife to butter their toast, put peanut butter on bread, and cut their own food at dinner time. I always walk through the safety rules first like putting the veggie on the cutting board to cut it rather than holding it in your hand. Always keep an eye on your work. Around the same time, I teach the kids to peel carrots and potatoes to help with hand eye coordination.
My kids also like to help with mixing foods like tunafish and pancake batter. I always use a deep bowel to prevent the food from splashing out of it. Even though the kids have small hands, I find the bigger metal spoons work well for getting through the thicker pancake batter.
At a slightly older age, I encourage my kids to learn to make foods from scratch. This summer, I’ll be working with my 8 year old on learning to make several recipes like baked parmesan chicken and buttered noodles. He’s already learned how to make tunafish and has his own special version he likes to make.
During the summer, all of my kids help with preserving food. We have a 14-bed vegetable garden plus a number of fruiting vines and trees, all of which is harvested and preserved with canning, dehydrating, or freezing. Not only do the kids help with picking fruits and veggies, they also like to wash the produce, trim it, and run it through the food mill if needed. I do the stovetop chores like cooking jam and put the jars in the steam canner or pressure canner.
I know it can seem a little scary to hand a 4 year old a knife to cut up veggies. However, if you plan on working along side of them and supervising them while encouraging them, you’ll create memories and teachable moments.