It’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to cook.
Let’s face it – once your kids are old enough to prepare their own food, it makes your life a lot easier as well. And, no, we’re not just talking about making a PB&J sandwich!
This article is going to take you through the essential cooking skills that you can teach to your kids by involving them in the household food prep. We’ve also got a great roundup of fun (and free!) online cooking classes designed for kids — they’ll turn your children into master chefs in no time!
Why do kids need culinary skills?
Being able to cook is an essential life skill. Not only does it help save money, but it’s important to understand food and nutrition in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
The earlier you start introducing kids to cooking, the better! Get them comfortable in the kitchen, open their eyes to the amazing things that can be created with food, and teach them the basics of health and nutrition. Then by the time they’re pre-teens, they’ll be able to fend for themselves without you having to wait on them hand and foot.
Kids culinary skills by age
Cooking with toddlers
Obviously toddlers are too young to be chopping and sautéing, but you can still introduce them to some basics of food prep! You can try:
- Giving them plastic containers or toy cookware to play with in the kitchen while you cook. This gets them acquainted with kitchenware.
- Showing them (from afar) some typical cooking techniques. Point out boiling water on the stove or put them in their high chair beside you as you chop veggies or knead dough.
- Letting them taste different things as you cook, and explain how you made it.
Cooking with kindergartners
By now your kids will be able to help out with some various kitchen processes. Short, hands-on experiences are best for keeping them focused; teach them to take pride in what you create together.
- Assign them the role of assistant chef. Get them to do kid-friendly steps in recipes, like adding cheese, mixing dough, or measuring pasta.
- Lay down the basic safety rules. Show them what’s hot, what’s sharp, and what not to touch. Teach them to keep pan handles facing in, to always use an oven mitt, and not wear loose sleeves at the stove. Point out the dangers without making them seem scary — you want them to be aware, not afraid.
- Take them grocery shopping and show them how you plan meals and find recipes.
- Teach them the value of healthy eating, and what makes certain foods — like fruit and vegetables — better for us than others. This worksheet bundle is a great introduction.
Cooking with elementary-aged kids
At this age your kids can start getting really involved in cooking. You can also start explaining to them the concept of nutrition and healthy food.
- Ask them to help you make a weekly meal plan. They can look through your cookbooks or online to find recipes that are healthy and tasty.
- Introduce your kids to the food pyramid, and the importance of a balanced meal. You can teach them about “sometimes foods” like sugar and fat, and emphasize the value of fresh vegetables.
- By now they can help out with a lot of kitchen processes: mixing, whisking, measuring, opening cans, reading recipes, peeling vegetables, and cracking eggs. Older elementary kids can start using blenders and the stove, while you’re in the room. The more they do, the more comfortable they will be in the kitchen.
- Watch cooking shows together, especially children’s ones like Masterchef Junior that demonstrate just how much potential they have to create in the kitchen.
Cooking with pre-teens
Ideally, by the time your kids are teenagers they should be able to cook for themselves. Just before high school is the best time to ensure they’re comfortable and safe in the kitchen on their own.
- Let them cook a whole meal on their own every few weeks. You can be on standby if they’ve got questions or need help, but it’ll boost their confidence if you put them in charge.
- Be sure they understand the components of a meal so they can ad-lib their own without needing a recipe. It’s as simple as including a protein, some carbohydrates, and a healthy source of fat, along with a few serves of veggies.
- Turn cooking into a joyful activity, not a chore. Explore different cuisines together, or bake a new thing every week. You could start out with French food, and even turn it into a fun mini geography lesson.
- Make sure they’ve mastered the basics. They don’t need to be baking elaborate pastries, but being able to make a basic pasta sauce, soup, salad, eggs, vegetables, and maybe some simple cookies will hold them in good stead.
5 of the best free online cooking classes for kids
Chop Chop Cooking Club
This digital club hosts weekly cooking challenges and shares plenty of kid-friendly recipes that’ll get them excited about cooking. It’s aimed at kids of all ages, but younger ones might need a little help getting it all done.
Cooking classes at Foodschool aren’t just about following a recipe. They teach young kids about healthy eating, sustainability, food culture, how to shop, and the basics of nutrition. They offer free online classes through their website.
Christina Tosi, founder of iconic NYC bakery ‘Milk Bar’, has begun hosting a free baking club on her Instagram. The recipes are family-friendly and simple, and she shares all the ingredients you’ll need a couple of days beforehand. It’s definitely not a super healthy cooking class — recipes include banana pudding, cereal marshmallow cookies, and gooey butter cake.
This kid-friendly meal kit service also has a bunch of free online cooking videos, all streamed and archived on its Facebook page. It’s easy to follow, with a mix of staple dinner recipes and baked goodies.
Food Literacy Center
This nonprofit organization aims to teach kids about nutrition; encouraging them to eat vegetables. They’ve established a curriculum to teach kids basic kitchen skills, while guiding them to make healthy choices. Each “lesson” includes a recipe along with essential nutritional info they should know.
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Link will appear as How to Boost Your Kids Culinary Skills – Including 5 Free Online Cooking Classes For Kids of All Ages: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 6, 2020