Cook With Your Kids, While You Can...
Licking the Spoon.....
Kids...little learning machines!
Children love to help. Once they are old enough to climb a stool next to the counter, let them do just that! Safely of course!
Children learn better the first 5 years of their life, but there is nothing wrong with starting even earlier. Did you ever stop to think about how much actual intelligence it takes to prepare a meal? How much you use math and science in your everyday routine to feed your family? Hmm....makes you think doesn't it!
Well, it should! Those little rugrats you've been raising are like little tiny computers..listening, learning and computing exactly how they will survive from this point forward. It's your responsibility to make sure that the information they receive is NOT corrupted, but useful and relavent to their wellbeing. So it is with cooking! They not only learn how to do it, they learn the mathematics to it and how to feed their family healthy but tasty! It becomes not only a useful learning experience, but you get quality time with your children that they will never forget. Don't wait too long....time is something you can never recover!
So, here's a start. They're too young to deal with knives or heat on the stove top or oven, but there is still plenty they can do. So here's a breakdown of things that you can teach them, and ages that they will be able to safely comprehend.
Breadmaking - ages 5 - 6
There is absolutely nothing like fresh baked bread! The smell, the aroma, the taste....the fun you have playing with it as you knead it! O.K., so maybe that's not all that much fun, but to a child it's a world of adventure! So here's a few pointers:
- Don't use a bread maker - that takes ALL the fun out of bread making! For everyone!
- Pull that stool up to the counter and put the kid to work!
- If the child can read, let them read the recipe to you, otherwise, read it to them. What they don't understand, explain at this point. This way, there will be no surprises for either of you!
- Show them where the ingredients are kept, and where possible, let them gather them.
- Explain the utensils that they will be using, being sure to stress safety in the kitchen for everyone.
- Teach them to measure, properly, and let them do it, redirecting where needed.
- Basically, whatever they can do safely, under your close supervision, let them.
- Set down the base rules: It's still YOUR kitchen and YOUR rules apply. If they cannot or will not abide by the 'RULES OF THE KITCHEN', they can't cook! It's as simple as that. Don't be afraid to 'boot' them out if they misbehave. There's too much chance of injury if a child is not respecting you or the rules while cooking. Be tough! It's safer!
So, let's get started. I use a Kitcheaid 6 Qt Professional Mixer...pretty big for a kid, but again, the first thing I go over is safety and who is allowed to turn the machine on or off. (Which of course is only me!) I introduce them to the differences in the beater and the dough hook, how it's installed and how the bowl locks into the base of the mixer. I also use a guard over the top to keep curious fingers out of the mixer and to keep flour from flying!
Then we start mixing the yeast and measuring the flour(s). Answer the questions they ask reasonably, because there will be many. Usually, the first one is "What is yeast and why do we need it?" Sounds simple...yeah right...explain it to a 5 -6 yr. old! So, do your homework too!
Explain why it is important to let the yeast proof...what it means and how it will affect the bread. Then, as you add flour, explain why you don't add it all at once. Explain to them that when the recipe says to alternate, do that....but, you will have to EXPLAIN it.
Once everything is in the bowl and the machine is kneading it, explain what this process does and how it affects the outcome. When this process is completed, YOU turn off the mixer, remove the bowl and put the dough on a floured board for additional kneading if needed. Show the child the proper method of kneading dough then place another greased bowl for rising. Be sure the bowl is placed in a warm, draft free area and covered with a damp cloth. Allow it to rise, then punch down and shape into loaves or whatever. Kids love this part! Let them get creative without working the dough too much. Also, CAUTION THEM NOT TO EAT RAW BREAD DOUGH.
Taking some of the dough and making cinnamon rolls is always a fun treat for them!
The final product, no matter what, will be a huge treat for them. There will be giggles, laughs and all sorts of excitement. Sort of like what you probably had when you made your first loaf of bread or cinnamon roll. And, if you've never done it....try it now, with your kids! Then you also can experience the giggles, laughs and all sorts of excitement! (Not to mention the really good bread your just made and the fun your had with your kids!)
Books by Maggie
Still going! Kids now 5 and 10!
When I wrote this hub last year, the examples I used were noting how early you could cook (or teach) children. Both these kids have been cooking for at least 3 years now, even Michael as he would stand by me at the table to help stir things when he could barely hold the spoon! Both of these kids LOVE to help cook. Whenever I enter the kitchen to cook, there is an immediate "I wanna help!". I have reached the point that I have to assign tasks when cooking, so that neither feel left out!
One thing that I would do, especially in the summertime when thoughts are in 'barbeque mode', was let the kids prep the meats. I usually smoked more than one type of meat at a time, so this was a perfect time to teach. After showing them which herb went where, and which spices were used, they completely enjoyed the aspect of the massaging of butter or olive oil into the meats. While I did the actual smoking, they were delighted at the results of their efforts.
As a result of their desire to cook, we have also begun acquiring their own cookware and accessories. They have their own stainless steel cookware (2-saucepans, 10" skillet, 8" skillet and 4 qt dutch oven), and a small bakeware set from LeCreseut. Both understand that it is theirs, but if they use it, they have to wash it and keep it clean and put away.
This gives them some ownership in the kitchen, and they feel like they are a true part of cooking. Another thing this does, is teach them responsibility. Due to her circumstances, Skyler didn't learn responsibility until after she was 5 years old, so struggles with it. Michael was taught how to be responsible early and accepts it readily. While Skyler struggles with responsibility, she is improving greatly, and is really a good cook now! It just takes time and patience...something everyone who deals with children needs!
Kids now 7 and 12 - it's amazing what they can do!
This past weekend, the kids decided they wanted to do their version of Food Networks "Chopped" series. With Skyler (12) deciding that she wanted to do the cooking and Michael (7) being the emcee, we went along with their 'game'.
Skyler had to come up with her own ideas for making the dish, but could ask me questions as she needed for guidance.
Skyler's first basket was chicken livers, bacon, garlic and shallots. She created Bacon wrapped Chicken Livers! Delicious!
Her second basket was pork chops, peaches, pears and whole wheat bread. She made a stuffed pork chop with sweet dressing.
Her third basket was a block of chocolate, raspberries, vanilla extract and selzer. She made chocolate souffle with raspberries and raspberries for for dessert!
Michael enjoyed telling her about her baskets and timing her, then critiquing her food. We all had a lot of fun and some great dishes. But most of all, Skyler had a sense of accomplishment and showed that she can use her own experiences in life.