If your school-aged child expresses an interest in learning to cook, you’ll want to nurture that interest along. Here are some tips on getting them started in the kitchen:
- Make sure that you have a kid-friendly work area. If the counter is too high for them to work at comfortably, consider having them work at the kitchen table instead.
- Plan to be on hand to supervise and to lend a hand when needed. Cooking is a skill that requires time to master. Besides, the kitchen is one of the most dangerous spots in the house, so you don't want to leave the budding chefs in your family on their own while they're cooking up a storm.
- Give your kids a crash course in nutrition. Don't assume that your kids automatically understand that meals need to include foods from a variety of food groups. Pull out a copy of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating and show them what types of foods belong in each food group, and have them make a list of their favourite types of food. This information will prove useful as they go about planning family menus.
- Set your kids loose on your cookbook collection. Encourage them to pick out some new recipes to try. Then, have them check to see which ingredients you already have on hand and which ones need to be added to your grocery list. (Note: Don't be surprised if the recipes they want to try aren't quite what you would pick out yourself. Half of the fun of cooking, after all, is trying something fun or unusual.)
- Teach your kids the fundamentals of cooking: how to measure ingredients, how to mix wet and dry ingredients, and so on. By showing them the basics, you will increase their chances of producing meals that they can be proud to take to the dinner table.
- Put some fun into menu planning by planning themed meals on a regular basis. Decorate your table and choose some music that fits the cuisine you're sampling, or try something totally wacky like adding food colouring to the mashed potatoes on "green food" night.
- Encourage your kids to write down all of those great recipes your family is test-driving. You might even want to encourage them to create their own family cookbook–a great gift idea for friends and relatives.
- Pitch in when it comes time to clean up. Most kids find it overwhelming to be faced with a sink full of dishes after spending an hour making a meal. They're more likely to volunteer for cooking patrol again if you offer to help clean up the mess.
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Baby Books and the newly-published Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler and Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler. Read her articles at www.having-a-baby.com.