17 February 2007

Getting kids cooking

We've got the kids' cookbooks covered...what next? Dori Young of Kids Cooking offers this advice if you're not sure where to begin:

I feel that your kitchen is the ideal setting to teach and learn. Kids respond to learning through cooking because they can take an active role in the process, and because it’s a hands-on learning experience.  But how do we actually get them to help? Especially when (for whatever reason) we’ve conditioned them to believe in the “Dinner Fairy” and “Lunch Leprechaun” by making meals magically appear on the table? Eating out constantly only perpetuates these myths and teaches our children that meals are ordered, not prepared. We are all busy, but I encourage you to take at least one night a week and cook with your kids.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Pick a day that you know you’ll have the time and patience to cook with your kids (like Friday night dinner or Sunday morning breakfast).
  • Make the experience -- not the meal -- the focal point.  If necessary, have a snack before you start so you’re not hungry.
  • Ask your kids what they want to make or give them a choice between two meals you know they like
  • Take them shopping with you; but not at the 5 p.m. rush hour.  Rather go in the late evening the night before.
  • Read the recipe in advance and prepare specific tasks (like tearing lettuce, grating cheese, measuring dry ingredients, etc.) that they can do without micromanagement; and
  • let them do it.
  • Have fun and be sure to compliment them on their creations!

More on kids and cooking: Introducing babies to food and cooking: the "rules" vary by culture, and two favorite blogs: Foodmomiac and FamilyFood. While not specifically about how to cook with kids [sprinkle them with kosher salt and paprika and slow-roast. Heh.], I love Danielle's and Stefania's real takes on the kid/food combo.

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Oh man, cooking with our daughter is a blast. From measuring out flour to cracking eggs to her sprinkling in the fresh cut herbs or a pinch of salt. She is so excited to be in the kitchen with me, helping out. It is a great time to bond with your child and teach them about food - where is comes from, etc.

Oh yeah, making cookies and such is a lot of fun, but you can get them involved with even less effort. Recently "baking biscuits" has become a Saturday morning ritual for my 28 month old daughter and me while mom's working out. It involves no work, since I buy them in the can. She loves popping the can and placing them on the cookie sheet. We recently tried croissant rolls (also from the can) and she loved tasting the jam we spread on them and rolling them up. And she always makes sure that we save some for mom.

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