Kids Can Cook -The Benefits of Teaching Your Kids How To Cook
Every week I receive emails from parents interested in finding cooking and baking classes for their kids. Some are interested in a one time cooking lesson, some want to hold a birthday party, some are looking for a summer cooking camp.
Then there is a group with teenagers who are interested in attending big name culinary arts schools when they graduate from high school and want to see if there are schools offering short programs for young adults to prepare them for getting into these schools.
My first response to all these parents is start by teaching your children to cook at home in your own kitchens. Not only can you teach them many of the basic techniques involved in preparing a meal, you spend some quality time with your child and create memories of a lifetime.
This post looks at the benefits of teaching you kids to cook including understanding foods, self confidence, time management, understanding basic science, creativity and a whole lot more. There are also resources for cookbooks for kids, cookwares and cooking outfits as well a list of schools from around the country offer cooking classes for you children.
Please be sure to leave your comments at the end of this lens. I would like to hear some of your own experiences teaching your kids to cook at home.
Teaching Your Kids How To Cook At Home
I know sometimes the idea of cooking with children can be a daunting one. They don’t work as quickly (or as neatly) as we would like them to. It can be messy; they ask a gazillion questions; they lick their fingers.
Please don’t let the mess deter you from cooking with your kids, though. Cooking with your children offers you the amazing opportunity to do something together that you can sit down and eat when the cooking is done! And the list of benefits, to both you and your kids, far outweighs any small aggravation that might occur.
Here’s the thing: if you can relax, allow plenty of time, and not be concerned about the mess, you will be able to enjoy spending some true quality time with your kids. Especially these days, our lives seem so over-scheduled.
What with ballet, soccer practice, band practice, martial arts, doctors’ appointments and shopping, rarely family members get to spend time together just focusing on being together.
When you cook with your kids, you see this daily task through fresh eyes-through the eyes of a child. The act of teaching them will not only reinforce your family connection, but it can also help you preserve, and create, family traditions.
Teaching your child the secret of Great Aunt Edna’s buttermilk biscuits has the effect of bringing generations together, even if Great Aunt Sadie has been gone for years.
Trying New Foods -Turn a Happy Meal Into a Thank You Meal
Do you get frustrated because your kids only likes chicken nuggets, or will eat nothing but macaroni and cheese from the blue box? You really want to think about cooking with them. Nothing gets a child more interest in trying new foods like making it themselves. And, no, don’t cook chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese! Cook a wide variety of foods.
By and large, kids learn their eating habits at home, so if they are picky eaters, it’s probably time you take a hard look at the kind of foods you are serving the whole family, and the manner in which you present them. If you really are providing balanced meals and introducing new foods in a positive light with an air of excitement, your kids will probably be pretty adventurous eaters, eager to try new things.
If you ever hear yourself saying things like “you probably wouldn’t like this,” or “this is grown-up food,” then look out. You could be creating a picky eater.
Regardless, inviting your kids to help you cook will make both adventurous and picky eaters excited about food. When your kids help you cook, they have a connection with that dish.
If they are proud of what they’ve made, and especially if you tell them that you are proud of what they made, they will be much more likely to give it a try than if you bring out some new food item, already prepared, from the Mysterious Kitchen.
A friend of mine attended a pre-school workshop about ways to help encourage kids to try many different kinds of food. The presenter had instituted the Thank You Bite at her house. The rule was, even if you had never tried the food or if you didn’t like it, you had to take at least one bite of everything.
This is the “Thank You Bite,” the bite you take to thank the cook for working so hard to put a nutritious meal on the table. I bet that, if you institute the Thank You Bite policy at your house, along with your kids helping you cook, that the Thank You Bite will turn into an entire Thank You Meal!
Crepes For Breakfast -Or Are They Danish Pancakes?
I grew up calling them Danish pancakes but most people think of them as crepes. I asked my 11 year old daughter who was home from school because of snow to write about preparing one of her favorite breakfast treats. She spent hours working on the recipe trying to describe every detail as fully as she could. I think you’ll enjoy her results: Crepes or Danish Pancakes
Kid Friendly Omelets - A Great Way To Get Your Kids To Try New Foods
One of the easiest and most fun recipes you can prepare with your kids is omelets. I remember my 17 year old nephew visiting us when we lived in Park City, UT for a ski vacation. He wanted some breakfast so I told him to make himself an omelet.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t know the first thing about making one so I stopped what I was doing and gave him his first cooking lesson. He loved making it and now tells me he is famous at school for his omelets.
Of course how much you let your child do at home depends on their age and experience. More importantly, you never want to leave your child unattended when a stove is in use and you want to watch them very carefully if they are cooking the omelet.
Here’s where you can have a lot of fun because you and your kids can choose their favorite ingredients to fill the omelet. They might want to fill it with chocolate or marshmallows so you may want to suggest some healthy alternatives like fresh vegetables, various cheeses, fresh herbs, chopped bacon or ham.
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup of whatever you are going to fill it with
How to Make a Kid Friendly Omelet
Start by cracking the eggs into a bowl. No matter what age they are, this is usually the “funnest” step for most kids. Add the salt and pepper, water and beat (mix) the ingredients together with a fork or small whisk.
Heat a small frying pan or omelet pan on medium-high heat and when it gets a little hot, add the butter making sure it covers the entire bottom of the pan as it melts.
The butter will help prevent the egg from sticking to the pan. (I find that using a nonstick pan for making omelets works best.)
Add the egg mixture into the pan and wait for the eggs to cook some but don’t move them around. If you do, you will end up with scrambled eggs instead of an omelet. If the eggs look like they are cooking too quickly, turn down the heat to medium.
When the eggs are no longer “liquidy”, add the filling over one half of the omelet. Using one or two spatulas, ( I like to use two wooden spatulas) fold the half without filling over the half with filling. Let the eggs cook for another 30 seconds and if you want, show you kids how to flip the omelet in the pan like they do in a restaurant or just slide them onto a plate and serve.
Having the kids make their own omelets is a great way to get them to try new foods while having a blast.
Who's Afraid of a Little Lobster
Macaroni and Cheese Recipe - Not-From-A-Box
Every kid loves macaroni and cheese especially the stuff you get from the box. They even make a mac & cheese you can microwave, but my kids are old school and only like the stuff you make on the stove top. Don’t read the ingredients, they are scary.
Now we can make our own mac & cheese together with the help of Mollie Katzen’s recipe from her cookbook Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up. Imagine that, no more bright orange powder.
This is a great cookbook for you and your kids because the recipes are doable, it tells you exactly what you will need and what to “Ask An Adult For Help With”. The procedures for each recipe are numbered with graphics for the ingredients and tools. Really well laid out.
This recipe takes 40 minutes to make and other 20 minutes to bake so it’s not instant like the stuff you make from a box but the freshness and experience is well worth it.
Macaroni and Cheese
5 or 6 servings
½ pound uncooked macaroni or baby pasta shells
2 tablespoons butter plus extra butter for the pan
2 cups mil
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 packed cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Extra cheddar for the top and for sprinkling onto each serving
How To Make at Home With Your Kids
Ask an adult to cook 2 cups macaroni or tiny shells, and then to drain it and set it aside.
Also ask an adult to turn on the oven to 350 degrees F.
Measure 2 cups of milk.
Heat the mil in a bowl in a microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes. You can also heat the milk in a pot over low heat on the stove. It should be very warm, but not boiling. Ask an adult for help with this. Put the warm milk aside for now.
Use a dinner knife to cut 2 tablespoons butter
Put the butter in a medium sized saucepan and put the pot on the stove. Turn on the heat to low.
While the butter is melting, measure 2 tablespoons flour and 2 teaspoons dry mustard into a small bowl. Sprinkle the flour and mustard into the melted butter. Whisk until there are no more lumps.
Whisk and cook the butter – flour – mustard mixture for 30 seconds.
A two person job: One person slowly pours the warm milk into the butter-flour-mustard mixture a little at a time while the other person whisks the mixture as the mild is drizzled in.
Turn up the heat to medium-low. cook the sauce for 3 minutes, whisking often. It will get thicker.
Sprinkle in 1 cup cheddar and ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese. Cook the sauce for 1 more minute, stirring with a long handled wooden spoon. The cheese will melt.
Put the cooked macaroni or shells into a big bowl. Carefully pour the hot cheese sauce into the pasta. You might need adult help. Stir slowly from the bottom of the bowl with the long handled spoon until the sauce is all mixed in.
Another two person job: One person holds the big bowl,, tilting it toward the butter baking dish while the other person, using a spatula scrapes all the stuff into the baking dish and spreads it in place
Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top. Ask an adult to put the pan in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Ask an adult to take the pan out of the oven and serve.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe - A Birthday Gift From My 11 Year Old
As a kid, my mom would ask us what kind of birthday cake we wanted and I usually asked for pineapple upside down cake. Who would have guessed 40 years latter my daughter would be asking me “what kind of birthday cake I would like?”
Even though my 11 year old did most of the work putting this recipe together, I stayed with her in the kitchen keeping a close eye on her because she was working with a hot stove and stove top. She prepared the cake in a large (heavy) cast iron pan and needed my help getting it in and out of the stove.
You can see how she made this cake at Pineapple Upside Down Cake along with a recipe for making your own yellow cake mix.
Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chips
My oldest (12 years old) daughter is really getting into baking. I’m not sure where she gets it. It must be her mother since I’m not very good at it. I’m trying but she is doing great. She is a huge fan of the television show Cake Boss so maybe that’s where it’s coming from.
I posted the recipe for Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chips here on my blog that provides step-by-step instructions on preparing this at home with your kids. It is not difficult at all and a great way to spend some time in the kitchen teaching your kids to cook.
More Great Recipes You Can Make With Your Kids
Fettuccine with Simple Lobster Sauce - Here's an example of how you can throw a meal together with leftovers to create a fun meal and great experience. In this recipe my daughter help prepare, she got the ingredients from the refrigerator, grabbed the necessary cookware from the cabinets, cut herbs from the herb garden, picked lobster meat from the shells, stirred the pasta and set the table. All I had to do was cut and cook.Cobb Salad Recipe To
Prepare With Your Kids - A great way to get your kids started in the kitchen. This American classic is fun to prepare and a great way to get your kids to enjoy salads.
A Simple Waffles Recipe For You and Your Kids - Who doesn't like waffles? My kids love to help on Saturday mornings and this is a recipe we can all make together.
Bifteki Burger Recipe - Here's one my 12 year old daughter decided to make one night. I never heard of a Bifteki burger before she showed me the recipe in her camp cooking class book of recipes. Easy and fun to make as a family - she prepped and prepared them, I grilled them on the barbecue.
Ratatouille - The Movie That May Launch The Next Top Chef
Are There More Benefits To Teaching Your Kids To Cook?
Additional "Kids Can Cook" Resources
Besides the many benefits mentioned here about teaching your children to cook at home, there are many others to be found on the Internet. Here are links to other Squidoo lenses, blog posts and internet articles that you may find helpful:
- Cooking Helps Kids With Language Skills, Self-Confidence and Following Directions -Learn how learning how to cook at a young age helps develop self confidence, language skills and how to follow directions in my blog post.
- How Cooking Helps Develop Your Kids Intellect -A blog post describing how learning to cook can help vocabulary development, reading comprehension, counting, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, measurement, fractions, spatial relations, sequencing, logical thinking, prediction, cause and effect, chemistry.
Teaching Your Kids About Ingredients
Part of teaching your kids to cook is teaching them about the ingredients. One of the best ways you can teach them about ingredients is to take them shopping with you.
However, just as cooking with kids can sometimes feel like a chore, shopping with your kids can sometimes be a daunting proposition. You don’t really want to deal with the “Buy me this!” or the huge fake plastic car you push them around in that makes child-less shoppers glare at you.
For one thing, it’s great to let your kids see what food looks like in its natural state. I don’t mean seeing cows walking around (although that’s good, too), but I mean that they can see fruits, meats and vegetables before you put them in a casserole or lasagna or soup.
As a matter of fact, if you have a convenient farmers’ market, I urge you to take your kids shopping with you there. At the farmers’ market, your kids can, in many cases, talk to the people who actually grew the food. At the very least, shopping in the produce section as opposed to the canned foods section will allow your kids to see whole pineapple as opposed to those yellow rings with the hole in the middle.
The canned section can be very confusing for a child. All the “food” looks alike. They’re all little cylinders with different labels. Are the labels magic? Does the act of putting a label on a can magically change what’s in it? Who knows? It’s not like you can see the food in the cans, so it’s really anybody’s guess.
At least in the produce section, the food is displayed for everyone to see. Onions look different from potatoes look different from corn looks different from green beans! And in the canned section, it all looks like cans. It’s much easier to show children the vast array of foods available to us in the produce section than it is when all there is to see is a wall of cans.
Here’s a fun idea. Take your child or children to the store with the direction that they each-you included-has to choose a food from the produce section that they’ve never eaten before. Your job, as the adult, is to then jump on the Internet and figure out how to prepare each of the foods. You can even make it into a kind of produce stand scavenger hunt:
1) Find a purple vegetable.
2) Find a round vegetable.
3) Find a red fruit.
4) Find a long, skinny vegetable.
Of course, don’t get too carried away, because you certainly don’t want to end up wasting food. But do try and institute a New Foods Night once a month so everyone in the family gets to cook and eat new and exciting foods.
Who knows? Maybe this week’s new food will be next week’s favorite food!
Cooking Schools For Kids
For Those Of You Who Would Like Some Help Teaching Your Kids To Cook
There are now culinary schools for kids of all ages springing up nationally. I don't have any affiliation with these schools and I suggest you do your homework before signing you children up but I wanted to make a few of them available to you as a reference.
- My Directory of Kids Cooking Schools Listed By State - For a more complete list of kid cooking schools from around the country, check out my Directory of Schools. I'll be adding additional schools as I learn about them.
- Young Chefs Academy -Established in April 2003, Young Chefs Academy offers cooking classes to children in a safe environment that encourages discovery and creativity. While learning food preparation skills is the main ingredient at YCA, each class adds a heap of kitchen safety, a scoop of etiquette, a handful of table setting, a pinch of menu planning, and laughter to taste. Over 155 franchises sold since June 2005
- Kitchen Kapers - New Jersey -All kids cooking classes are structured to provide hands-on, interactive instruction. Under supervision of the chef, students learn to make a main course, side dish and dessert and then sit down to enjoy the fruits of their efforts with their classmates. For safety, children should wear long pants and sneakers.
- Kids Cooking Company - Texas -Kids Cooking Company is an innovative concept in children`s cooking classes which was developed to inspire, excite and feed the curiosity of your growing gourmet. The experience of cooking is an integral part of life which provides a fundamental way to connect with children.
Culinary Schools For Future Professional Chefs
I Want To Be The Next Best Chef
If you are in high school, college or are thinking of making a career change, I highly recommend you check out my Reluctant Gourmet Culinary School Resource Center where you will find Culinary School Articles, Chef Interviews, Important Culinary Books, plus Culinary Schools listed by city and state.
Here are some important culinary links you will find:
- The Reluctant Gourmet Culinary School Resource Center - Find articles, resources, books to read and schools listed by city and state.
- How To Choose A Culinary School - An informative article describing key strategies for choosing the right culinary arts school for you.
- Becoming A Pastry Chef -What does it take to become a professional pastry chef? What personal characteristics? What skills will you need? Find out in this article
- Novice2Pro Interviews with Professional Chefs -Learn from professional chefs in these short but informative interviews.
- Culinary Schools Listed By City & State -Find a top culinary school near you and learn more about their programs and how to apply.
I loved your article! My grandson is always bugging me to "help" in the kitchen. I can't wait to do some of these things with him. I used to receive articles from The Reluctant Gourmett a lot, but I haven't received anything for a long time in my email. This was worth the wait. Thank you.
Loved the article! The book is now in my shopping cart. I enjoy cooking and especially enjoy when my 3-yr old and 6-yr old help. I always find something for them to do and it makes it easier for them to eat what they helped to cook. What I find difficult is knowing when to allow them to start practicing with a sharp knife! Thanks for the tips; keep up the good work. 🙂
The Reluctant Gourmet
Thanks Alicia and yes, that is a question I still ask myself when I watch my girls pick up knives at 15 and 17. Each have their own way of handling a knife and it's not always the way I want them to but I hope I've given them enough of an understanding to respect the blade and be careful.