So I suppose I should start this post by telling you how awesome you’d be to teach your kids how to cook so when they leave home they’ll be able to make themselves a decent meal. But that’s not really my motivation for this post. I mean it sounds good and all but really my motivation for teaching my kids to cook is simply so that I don’t have to. There I said it.
Hi, my name is Laura and I teach my kids to cook so I don’t have to!!
Some of you are not going to like me for saying so either. I’ve been told I’m a mean mom for expecting so much of my kids. Those same people probably aren’t going to like it when I say that my kids also do their own laundry and clean all the bathrooms too (along with many other chores!). And you know what? I don’t feel guilty at all. Not one bit. In fact, I’m really proud of them. They are great hard working kids who are going to do just fine when they get out on their own (one of them already is!). In the meantime, I’m happy to enjoy the benefits of all their hard work :)
In our house everyone has responsibilities, this isn’t a free ride. Nope we all pitch in. Is it easy to train up children to do the chores and cooking? Ummm definitely not. Let’s face it, we could for sure do it faster ourselves and certainly better but that’s because we’ve had years and years of practice. And that’s what we can give our kids. Years and years of practice. That doesn’t make us mean, that makes us smart!
The more years of practice you can give your kids the better which is why it’s so important to start them young. My kids are older now, 20, 17 and 11. They all started helping out in the kitchen when they were little and each year I would increasingly give them more responsibility until eventually in their teens they were able to prepare entire meals for the family. That’s when all the years of training FINALLY pays off. It’s glorious people, absolutely glorious!!
My sister is currently in the thick of kitchen training with her two girls ages 8 and 6. So because it’s fresher in her mind than it is in mine, I asked her to share with us some of her best teaching kids to cook tips.
Task list suggestions:
I am reluctant to tell you which ages your kids should be doing certain tasks. All kids are different and each parent will have to assess what’s appropriate for their child’s skill level. As they successfully master one task like peeling veggies for instance, move them up to cutting veggies. There are many steps of the dinner preparation process that kids can do. Kids make excellent sous chefs! Here are just a few suggestions:
Peeling potatoes, cucumbers and carrots
Slicing fruit and veggies
Getting out and microwaving frozen veggies
Rolling out homemade meatballs and hamburgers
Making easy meals quesadillas, grilled cheese, scrambled eggs
Heating cans of soup
Rolling out pizza dough and adding toppings
Measuring out baking/cooking ingredients
Rolling out cookies
Making simple tea biscuits (my kids had this one mastered young thanks to their Granny!)
Setting and clearing the table
Washing dishes/loading dishwasher
Patience is required:
It can be extremely difficult to cook with kids at the beginning. Brace yourself and go slow. Remember, it’s just dinner and it doesn’t have to be perfect, keep expectations reasonable. Occasionally you may experience some fit throwing because they don’t want to help. The older they are when you start probably the more resistance you are going to get. Make it non-negotiable and tell them you can do this nicely (perhaps with an incentive) or you can do it with attitude and a consequence. It’s their choice but either way it’s still going to be done. You may have to leave the room a time or two for some deep breaths but stand your ground momma. You’ve got this and it will eventually be worth it, I promise!
Take turns with siblings:
My sister has found that if she has both kids in the kitchen at the same time, chaos and fights ensue. The way to avoid that and make the process more manageable is to have your kids take turns in the kitchen. Designating separate nights for each really helps. When my sister asks her kids what the best part of cooking with Mommy is, they say spending time with Mommy. So as you can see, at the younger ages they don’t see it so much as work yet. You want to capitalize on this time so that by the time it stops being fun as they get older (for some it might) it will already be established as a daily routine that needs to get done whether they like it or not.
Menu plan with kids:
Menu plan with the kids so that they can choose recipes that they are interested in making. This gives them a sense of control over their food choices. Choose really simple recipes (the fewer the ingredients the better!) when first starting out, maybe even using kids recipe books. If your kids are able to read have them read through recipe books getting ideas of recipes they want to try.
Also as kids get older having recipes printed out and ready to go each night becomes essential, read my post about why I think so HERE. You may be able to whip something up off the top of your head, but it’s unreasonable to expect our kids to be able to do the same. So even if it’s a recipe you’ve made a hundred times before, have a recipe ready each night so your child can set out the needed ingredients and follow the necessary cooking steps. If a child isn’t at the cooking stage yet, just getting the ingredients out and on the counter ready for you to cook saves so much time! Once a child has learned how to read a recipe, they are well on their way to getting dinner on the table for you all on their own. You can thank me later :)
Like I said earlier, the only way it will get any easier is if your kids practice and work at it. Bit by bit, they will get better. Also keep in mind that some kids may require more practice than others especially if they don’t enjoy it. My daughter enjoyed being in the kitchen more than my son does and as a result she caught on much faster. That’s okay. Also like I said earlier most little kids are so keen to help out. Keep a stool in the kitchen so they can stand beside you watching and “pretending” to help. Try not to discourage them which is easier said than done I know because those younger kids are also mess makers. For sure it will be more work for you in the beginning especially in the clean up department but even if you just give them a cloth to “wash” the counter while you work they’ll be happy. Every day as they work along side you, no matter how little the job, is practice towards a higher goal. Keep your eye on the prize :)
I know I said I teach my kids to cook so I don’t have to but really there are so many other benefits to it as well. When kids are part of cooking dinner they are much more willing to try new things. They may not like it but they are willing to try it and give it a chance when they cook it. They are also more aware of how much work goes into cooking for them and they appreciate it more. In addition, my sister told me that the first time her 8 year old made dinner for the family all on her own she was so proud of herself and it meant so much to her. It’s very cool how much you can see their confidence grow from week to week!
One of the areas that many parents get nervous about when it comes to teaching their kids to cook is teaching them the safe way to use a knife. Definitely an area to be concerned about which is why it’s important to teach proper knife techniques to them. Now my sister’s Executive Chef husband can obviously teach their girls the right way to hold and use a knife but the rest of us might not necessarily know how. Over the years you might have heard me mention a fantastic FREE kid’s knife video series from Kitchen Stewardship that I highly recommend.
It’s coming soon, get on the waiting list now (at that link just click on where it says stay in the loop and enter your email)!
It’s only available at certain times of the year but I’ve heard that it will be coming available again on April 1st. This same company will also be opening their popular Teaching your Kids to Cook Course (affiliate link) at the same time however please keep in mind that there is a cost to that program. If you leave your email address at the link above, they’ll notify you as soon as both of those two courses become available in April if you are interested.
Teaching your kids to cook recipes:
In part three of my teaching kids to cook series I’ll be sharing some recipe links that I think are great starter recipes for kids of all ages. They’ll be tried and true recipes that we’ve used and that I know work so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, check out my Pinterest boards that are dedicated to quick and easy meals and slow cooker recipes that you might find helpful.
Which stage of kitchen training are you at? Are you just starting out, working on it or finally reaping the rewards of your teens preparing the entire meal (whoot, whoot!)? Your comment might be great encouragement for someone else.
If you found this post to be helpful, don’t forget to share it with the other moms in your life. Thank you!
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