Many adults don’t cook with their children, assuming their kids are too young or lack interest. But kids at any age can help in the kitchen. Little ones can stir pots or crack eggs while big ones work the oven and slice vegetables. Cooking is very engaging to children, especially if they make foods they like and want to eat.
Most people learn how to cook as young adults but why not teach your child to cook now? Teaching cooking seems daunting yet it’s simple as long as you’re safe and know what to do.
We are three children with real life experience learning to cook in Lagos. Let us share our knowledge so you can cook with your child, as well.
Read recipes thoroughly to ensure you have enough time. Once we started to make bread with our mum before realising that the recipe required several hours to knead and allow the dough to rise. Needless to say, that dinner wasn’t our finest but we did enjoy going to bed late! Remember that with kids involved, you can expect everything to take longer than it usually does.
Make sure the recipe is simple enough for a child. Seriously. A kid who’s eleven won’t know what the words ‘parblanching’ or ‘butterflying’ mean unless they’re competing on MasterChef Junior.
Assemble the ingredients with care. One time, we attempted to make pizza with our mother. All was well until she asked for the baking paper. We looked inside the drawer, found some paper and gave it to her. Simple, right? Well, not really. The paper we handed her was wax paper, which melted into the dough. We ended up with a big hunk of waxy pizza, yuck!
Wear an apron. Kids are kids. We like to make a mess. Unless you want to have your clothes ruined, make sure everyone wears an apron. If you really want to keep things tidy, put some plastic tablecloths on the ground to contain spills. It is not fool-proof though. We can recall getting pancakes, spaghetti and melted chocolate stuck to the ceiling!
Skip the boring parts. If there’s something dreadful in a recipe—like stirring for twenty minutes straight or chopping loads of onions—either do it yourself or find a new recipe! Even though waiting and discomfort are parts of life, kids won’t appreciate the monotony. Trust us.
Cook something kids want to eat. Which statement will make kids more excited? A) “Kids, let’s make broccoli with Brussels sprouts and liver pie!” or B) “Let’s bake chocolate chip cookies!” If you chose A, you probably don’t have children. Kids want to cook things they love. On the flip side, kids are more adventurous tasting things they’ve helped to cook so if you want your kids to eat a vegetable, have them prepare it themselves.
Plan ahead. Make sure your kids know when they are expected to cook. You don’t want to spring on them that they will be stuck inside the kitchen for hours instead of going out to play. Then they might sulk, which ruins the pleasure of cooking together.
Teach them how to do it. If your kid doesn’t know how to use a mixer, teach them how. That way, the next time you’re making food together, they can mix the food instead of having you do it for them. Also it means they’re less likely to break the mixer when you’re not around!
Don’t forget to be safe. Obviously a three-year-old shouldn’t be frying plantains but that doesn’t mean they can’t butter toast. Even a kid who can’t read can sift flour, whisk ingredients or lay a table. Although some cookbooks have age guidelines, you’re the best judge of what your child is capable of.
Kitchen safety is more than just preventing burns and fires. Teach kids how to stay clean when handling raw or dirty food. Kids need to know what fresh meat and produce look like, so they can avoid using food that’s spoiled.
Link it to learning, if you must. ;) Cooking can help teach maths, science and geography. We’ve gotten school assignments that involved doubling recipes and then producing them ourselves. Knowing how to convert from centilitres to cups, or grams to ounces can help make you a better student but…
Radha Zutshi Opubor, age 13
Omala Zutshi Opubor, age 12
Om Ajogri Opubor, age 10
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