A reader asked if I would talk more about the kitchen and cooking related lessons I hope to teach my children as they grow older. While I really don’t have a hard and fast rule as to when I want to teach certain things, I do have an idea of what I want to teach and a generalized idea of how old I think they ought to be.
Before I go any further, I do want to put in a plug for GNOWGLINS and their new Real Food Kids series. They have done a great job showing how to get kids involved in the everyday preparations necessary for cooking in a more traditional way. Plus, they have put it together by age so you can tailor your kitchen needs to your child’s age. You can check it out here: Real Food Kids: In the Kitchen
OK, so what are the kitchen fundamentals I am either teaching or planning to teach by age? Here they are…
- Basic table manners: sitting quietly, prayer time, learning how to use a sippy cup and utensils, waiting for their turn without screaming
- More basic table manners: Saying Please and Thank You, carefully passing condiments & lighter weight plates/bowls, using a napkin, etc
- Beginning Table Chores – I usually start with wiping down chairs and cleaning up anything that has dropped on the floor.
- Begin assisting in food prep. I love these knives for this purpose. Pampered Chef also sells a version of kid-friendly knives.
- More food prep like stirring and mixing, cutting with their set of knives, using cookie cutters, etc.
- Beginning of helping to set table
- Helping put away groceries (learning where things go in the kitchen)
- More food prep, but still nothing that might burn them (ie griddle, stovetop, etc). Basically anything they can pitch in with that doesn’t involve outright cooking, I try to include them.
- Beginning measurements. Mostly 1 cup, 1 TBSP, 1 tsp, and leveling ingredients.
- How to make coffee (that’s what my son is doing in the photo above), hot chocolate and tea with tepid water.
- Easy snacks – things like Ants on a Log, cheese and crackers, buttered bread, etc.
- (this is the age I usually give them their very own apron!)
Here’s where I really start investing more time in their cooking skills.
- How to read a recipe.
- Learning to add ingredients by themselves and mix completely.
- Learning to use a hot griddle (we usually start with something like quesadillas or pancakes)
- Putting away dishes from dishwasher (by this age, I expect them to know where everything goes in the kitchen, so they know where to find something when they need it)
- More measurements – 1/4 cup, 3/4 cup, 2/3 cup, etc
- Beginning to make simple meals like Taco Salad or sandwiches.
- Learning what it takes to keep a kitchen clean
- Learning basic kitchen safety – garbage disposal, how to use hot pads, fire safety
- Cooking without my supervision.
- Learning to double and half a recipe.
- Learning how to use a stovetop and oven.
- Learning how to cook and clean various pans (we use cast iron and stainless steel)
- How to load a dishwashwer.
- Learning how to put away leftovers, as well as basic food safety.
- Learning how to clean out a refrigerator/freezer and oven.
- Meal planning
- Beginning baking – I like to start with my Pizza Dough recipe.
Ages 14 & up
Time to let them fly!
- Complete meal planning & cooking.
- Budgeting and understanding the cost of food and how to get the best deal.
- Bulk purchasing & storage
- Serving others with food (ie taking meals to others, hospitality, etc)
- Carving meats and other more difficult knife skills
- More “technical” cooking – broiling, basting, steaming, using a double boiler, etc.
- Mastering baking.
My son is 14 and can pretty much man the kitchen by himself (pun intended). Recently, he’s taken on the job of cooking breakfast for the crew since he loves a hot breakfast and is often one of the first ones up (and alert ;) )
My 11 year old planned all our lunches for this month and my new 8 year old is becoming quite the kitchen helper.
It would be lovely if my kitchen weren’t quite so small so I could get more the of the kids in there at one time, but for now, this is the way it is and we just take turns.
I’m sure I’ve missed something, so I’ll probably come back to this post occasionally and revamp it, but it’s a good start and I hope it helps those of you looking for more tangible ways to get your children involved in the kitchen.