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We often hear that kids don’t learn some of the most basic of life skills anymore. Many of us as adults may not have these skills either.
Cooking is a big one.
Cooking skills are an important way for kids to build independence, along with the skills themselves.
When you’re teaching kids to cook, you have to start with the basics like kitchen and fire safety.
From there, you can move on to help them learn age-appropriate skills that can be built on as they get older and mature.
The following are benefits of teaching your kids kitchen safety and cooking skills, and what to know to get started.
The Importance of Independence
First and foremost, teaching kids to cook gives them a foundation for independence.
When your kids learn independence early-on, it can help them learn through their mistakes and think situations through more critically in the future. It increases children’s self-esteem and prepares them to handle future stress and failure in all areas of their life.
Whether it relates to cooking or other areas of life, the following are some tips to help you teach your children to be more independent.
- Let your children know that you’re going to let them be more of a big kid or take on more responsibilities. Prepare them ahead of time for what these changes might look like.
- Identify specific cooking and kitchen-related opportunities that will be best for your child at whatever age they are.
- As you’re working on independence, create priorities. Trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming and you want to start slow.
- Praise little steps your child takes and small accomplishments to encourage more independence in the future.
Cooking doesn’t just teach independence, but it also teaches cause and effect and even science. Kids can learn how one decision or one ingredient will affect the outcome of a recipe so much.
Kids can eventually learn confidence as they build their cooking skills. Making something in the kitchen can help kids feel a sense of accomplishment and they’ll get excited about sharing their work.
Teaching Kitchen Safety
Before you start providing lessons on cooking skills, safety should be your top priority.
The type of kitchen lessons you teach should be age-appropriate.
For example, toddlers might have a stool so they can safely stand at the counter and help you with mixing. At the same time, the first skills you teach should be things such as avoiding a hot oven or boiling pots of water.
For three-to-five-year-olds you might be able to teach knife skills using plastic knives. Things that can be easy for younger kids to practice on with a plastic knife include avocados or bananas.
For kids who are between the ages of six and ten, you can think about letting them start using a real knife, although only with very careful supervision.
Kids may be able to start stirring pots with hot or boiling water, with safety tips such as keeping their wrists away from the steam in mind.
Once a kid is around the age of eight if you think they’re mature enough, they may be able to start taking lightweight baking sheets out of the oven so they can get comfortable with oven mitts, but again only with careful supervision.
General kitchen safety tips that kids should know include:
- Teach your kids about the importance of washing their hands while they’re preparing food, as well as during food preparation when needed. For example, kids need to learn about the risks of contamination from certain raw foods like chicken. They should also learn to wash their hands when they’re finished preparing food.
- As your kids get a bit older, they should learn about washing off or swapping out dirty knives and cutting boards for clean ones. For example, your kids should know not to use the same cutting board for raw meat as is used for raw fruits and vegetables.
- Kids should learn to wash all of their fruits and vegetables before they use them, and to keep foods properly stored at a safe temperature.
- Teach the idea that when using a knife, you should always cut away from yourself.
As far as fire and stove safety, kids need to learn never to play near the stove when it’s being used. They should always put their hair back and use potholders when touching the handles of things on the stove. Nothing should ever be left close to a burner that can catch fire, like potholders or paper towels.
Time to Start Cooking
Once your child has an age-appropriate grasp of kitchen safety, you can start assigning tasks. You’ll have to let go of some control as you do this, which can be tough but it’s necessary.
To get your kids interested in being in the kitchen, you should let them choose the recipes you’re going to make.
If your kids are choosing the recipes, they’re going to feel more engaged because they’re going to want to eat the food when you’re done.
This isn’t just true for kids—as adults, we’re going to feel more inspired to cook things that seem delicious to us.
More Advanced Cooking Skills Your Kids Can Learn
As your child gets older and has mastered the basic, don’t be afraid to move onto more advanced skills. As you’re working with your kids on these skills, teach the terminology that goes along with them, such as saute, and puree.
Learning new words is a critical part of skill-building.
You can use food lessons to teach your kids more about important things like nutrition and health as well as culture and history.
Gradually, you can introduce skills such as peeling, creating things without a recipe such as certain dressings and sauces, and more. Learning their way around the kitchen is a lifelong skillset you can teach your children, and it will have benefits in many other areas of their lives now and into adulthood.