Cooking with Kids

Cooking with kids is a lot of fun, and not as hard as you may think. The trick is in not doing it all for them. Yes, it’s faster to just do it, but they won’t learn as much as if they drop a few eggs, make a few messes, and learn how to fix mistakes. You can even make a unit study out of it with Amy Azevedo’s Take a Whisk and Try This.

If your kids are small still, make sure they have a stool on which to stand, and all kids need to understand basic kitchen safety. Every parent teaches their kids not to touch the stove, but cooking also involves using sharp knives and other equipment that can cause injury when handled improperly – blenders, knives, and fires are all possible hazards. Here’s how you can handle them:

Fire: Keep a fire extinguisher handy. It’s always better to have it and not need it than the reverse. For grease fires, turn off the stove and cover the pan. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, toss dry flour over the burning areas to suffocate the fire. Do not use water. Your local hardware store should have small fire extinguishers, but if not, Amazon is handy with this pair for about $25:

Burns: Don’t use butter, it just insulates the burn and keeps it hotter longer. Cool tap water is the best quick fix, but Lanacane spray is also terrific. You can pick it up at most drug stores, but it’s also available on Amazon for about $6: Lanacane is handy to keep around for insect bits and stings too.

Cuts: Small cuts happen, and Lanacane spray is helpful here too, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: teach your children to keep their finger tips folded away from the knife blade. Also keep hydrogen peroxide and neosporin on hand in case of things that require a little more.

What are you going to cook? You’re only limited by your imagination, and possibly food sensitivities, here are a few easy ideas you can use with beginners.

Anything with or including eggs. By the time our twins were 6 or 7, they were making better eggs than we did. One of us still stuck around to make sure they were okay, but after a while, we just stayed within earshot. They still rock the over-easy egg, and their scrambled eggs are anything but dry and rubbery.

Pancakes, muffins and cupcakes. While they don’t seem the same, the method for making each is, so once you make one, the others are easy to figure out. You don’t always have to make them from scratch, but learning to follow a recipe has so many benefits for other subjects. A recipe is step-by-step, and kids learn to follow instructions for cooking and other projects carefully, so they can achieve the goals they set.

Salads. Okay, so they’re not so much about cooking, but they do require some creativity to be interesting, and knife skills.

Pasta. There’s nothing easier, or more fun than pasta, just be sure to teach your kids to cook it properly. Don’t let it go to the point of mush!

Hamburgers. Whether you’re using a veggie patty recipe ( or ground meat, kids love burgers. Learning how to season food is more art than science, but they learn that, while you can always add seasoning, you can never remove it, and over seasoning food can quickly lead to something inedible.

Stir fry. This is a great way to combine all the skills your kids have learned. Successful stir fries include meat, vegetables, and seasoning. Your kids will need to cut the vegetables and meat. We often cook the meat first, and then cut it up. It’s easier to work with after it’s cooked.

If your kids are like mine, they’ll want to scour your cookbooks for new ideas. As they gain confidence, they’ll likely go for more complicated recipes! We have made curry, crepes and more. The boys, who are 12 now, have even learned to make pancakes and burgers unsupervised. They have made dinner from start to finish with only a little advice along the way, and love having the ability to cook for the family.

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