My 5 year old son was so excited when I recently agreed that he could make a family dinner that we immediately started planning! He selected what he wanted to cook, determined the main ingredients, and completed the preparation and cooking himself.
My son has been interested in helping in the kitchen since he was very young. He often pulls a chair up to the bench and helps with part of the meal preparation or cooking. I let him determine what he would like to help with and when he wants to help. I believe that his interest is based on my own – he is exposed to me constantly talking about and enjoying cooking. We also spend a lot of time in the vegetable garden growing food, bringing it to the kitchen and preparing it for our family. We regularly talk about, or are involved in activities with food.
On this occasion, when it came choosing what he might cook:
- I provided some suggestions of meals that he might like to make. In the end his choice was inspired by a meal that our lovely, very kind neighbour baked for us some time ago. One night she left a Cottage Pie at our front door, warm and ready for dinner when I arrived home from a very long day at work. It was such a lovely, wholesome family meal that had been prepared with thoughtfulness and care that I have been meaning to make it myself for some time. My son agreed that it would be a good meal for him to try and make (check out the recipe we used here)
- He chose all of the vegetable ingredients to be used with no prompting.
- I determined the ingredient quantities and also the flavourings.
- I guided him in the process from start to finish, and helped with some cutting of vegetables and measuring.
SUGGESTIONS FOR INVOLVING CHILDREN WITH COOKING
This is a summary of the basic activities I involve my children in by age:
Age 2 years: Introduction to Food Preparation
- Chair pulled up close to the bench
- Watch, smell, touch and taste
- Introduce the concept of heat and danger in the kitchen
- Introduce the concept of cleanliness and hygiene in food preparation
Age 3-4 years: Introduction to the Use of Appliances
- Introduce hand mixer, blender, wok and pans
- Adding ingredients
- Rolling and kneading dough
- Discussion on ingredients and measurements
- Continue to reinforce the concept of danger in the kitchen
- Continue to reinforce the concepts of cleanliness and hygiene in food preparation
- Introduce recipes and their purpose
Age 4-5 years: Meal Preparation Assistance and Cooking
- Completion of chunks of basic meal preparation and stages of cooking such as selecting, preparing and adding toppings to pizza, cooking basic recipes such as pancakes
- Cracking eggs
- Learning to measure and weigh
- Basic knife skills
Please note: The items listed are based on my experience with my family, I am not suggesting that they are suitable for all families. You may choose to use some of these activities in the kitchen if you think they are appropriate for your individual child and family circumstances. Close supervision is always advised when cooking with children.
If my son continues to show an interest in cooking I will continue to introduce new activities and give him new responsibilities in the kitchen. I am so proud of his efforts with this meal. It is a truly great recipe – there are eight vegetables in it! You can see it here. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. When I asked him today what he would like to cook next he told me that he would like to make a chicken pie with pastry on top and mixed with vegetables in a sauce. You can find our family Chicken Pie recipe here.
What activities do you involve your children in to encourage their interest in cooking?