Last week my girlfriend, who freely admits to not enjoying cooking door-stopped me and asked for my help. For a school assignment, her daughter had to make a video, which would showcase her (and a mate) making something healthy. They chose quesadillas. Easy right? My friend flew into a complete panic. A cheese toastie maybe, but something Mexican that involved more than 3 ingredients, no way! I don’t think she quite realized that quesadilla is actually a glorified toasted cheese sandwich. But I digress…
And so I found myself in my kitchen early on Saturday morning with two very eager but novice cooks. They told me that they hardly ever get involved in the kitchen, not because they don’t want to, but because their parents just tend to assume that they don’t want to, or believe “it’s just easier”, if an adult takes charge. Hmmm.
Personally, I’ve insisted that my kids help or lead the process of cooking for each meal since they were tiny, because I passionately believe that the act of cooking and eating is such a convivial thing and I also enjoy the tactility of cooking. It has become second nature to my children and they are becoming more and more confident and creative with their culinary adventures. This is simply the way my household swings. There is no wrong or right. But it would appear we are in the minority.
- 27% primary-school-aged kids never help with the cooking at home
- 44% of parents say they are too time poor to let kids help in the kitchen
- 43% of parents say their kids know less about cooking than they did at the same age
Break that down a little more, and sadly just 28 per cent of children help out in the kitchen once a month, 32 per cent once a week, and only five per cent every day.
The survey asked more than 800 parents to rate the cooking skills of their children, revealing that being time-poor is a major hurdle for parents when it comes to teaching kids basic cooking skills at home. Well there’s a load of parent-guilt right there! Let’s not forget that for a range of (mostly unavoidable reasons), busyness is a major factor in our lives. So rather than beat ourselves up about it, I instead encourage you to simply just do what you can, when you can. Just a little each day. Or maybe just on weekends ~ whatever works for you. My promise to you is that by teaching your kids a few basic steps, you can encourage a love of cooking so your kids will actually want to take the lead in the kitchen.
- Start early. We often underestimate what our children are capable of. Have them help with measuring, pouring, stirring, whizzing and blending, chopping and grating (age-dependent). This has the added bonus of honing their literacy and numeracy skills. Measuring cups and spoons are a must when cooking with kids until they learn to judge quantities for themselves.
- Encourage mess to enter your home (if only temporarily). It can be quite liberating and if you have a dog, you’ll find that they suddenly become a very effective vacuum cleaner. Make cleaning up fun ~ go heavy on the soapy suds and use a little non-staining food dye to make the water colourful.
- Keep recipes simple to begin with and factor in their favourite foods as often as you can. My daughter adored any kind of egg dish when she was little. You can find some great recipes on the Healthy Active Kids website and a quite a few on Caro & Co too! And here’s a dead simple recipe for Quesadillas.*
- As your children get older, teach them the value of ‘mise en place’. This basically means “putting in place” or setting up all the ingredients you will need before using them in the cooking process. It’s standard practice in most restaurants and really helps when kids are in the kitchen. It has a twofold effect. It makes the process of following a recipe more logical to kids and generally just makes it easier for everyone involved.
- By getting your kids into the kitchen regularly, you are giving them an essential lifelong skill. Once they leave home, they’re on their own… My father who hadn’t spent any time in the kitchen as a kid, once blew up an oven by placing an unopened can of condensed milk into it, thinking that he could simply heat it up that way to make caramel. He was 25 at the time and was lucky he didn’t blow himself up in the process. I’m determined this won’t be the case with my son.
- Make it fun! There is no right or wrong to begin with. Give yourselves over to the process. Praise them loudly and often. Crank up some music and sing along while you cook. Buy them a little chef’s hat and their own set of (age-dependent) utensils.
Until next time….
What is your kid’s favourite recipe and why?
*Recipe courtesy of the ever-fabulous taste.com.au.
This post is brought to you by Caro & Co and Healthy Active Kids.