Teaching children to cook starts from an early age engaging their enthusiasm in the whole process of food and dining. From before they can handle fine motor skills you can get them involved with laying the table, ask their opinion on tastes. Play games involving trying out different foods, finger foods. After all cooking is as much about developing a good palette as the mechanics of a weighing scales. As they get older develop their own little area of the kitchen where they can develop hygiene and safety skills. Lay the foundations of good practise with aprons, hand washing, washing dishes, using clean implements. Start involving them in the process of shopping and planning. Allow children to choose three food items to go in the shopping trolley provided they can tell you how much it costs for all three. Needless to say this will improve reading and maths skills. You can get a little sweet shop out and they can weigh little sweets from various jars. Cooking skills should be developed as a life skill, not just for production of inedible mounds of cupcakes.
Once they are able to hold knifes and spoons with any accuracy, begin making lunch time a cooking event, many childrens shows demonstrate this such as Big Cook, Little Cook. They could make sandwiches, side dishes of nicely cut vegetables, cakes prepared in the morning presented beautifully. Starting with cornflake, rice pops or other favourite cereals in chocolate is an enthusiastic option and a great way to experiment with tastes.
Baking with Grandma is great way to develop skills and enthusiasm. There are a number of excellent childrens cookbooks available and it is good for them to develop their own library of cookbooks. It encourages development of reading, planning and maths skills. Follow recipes to begin with, but encourage them to develop their own ideas as they extend their skills.
Cold lunches move on to making hot lunches and learning basics with eggs, like scrambled, fried, boiled and on to omlettes. The latter are a firm favourite and a pathway to adding ingredients, as are scrambled eggs. Hot lunches progress to soups and making bread.
With the children starting school, lunchtime cooking becomes a weekend thing and with basic soup mastered, it is time to move on to casseroles and stews. Then comes the ambition to do Sunday Roast, an immensely satisfying moment when a child can serve up Sunday dinner and proudly say “I made that.”
Is it easier to dish up meals sans enfant in the kitchen? Definitely. Is it better? Definitely not. If young adults as evidenced by various reality shows are less capable of boiling an egg today, people have only themselves to blame. Teaching children to cook is not a life skill that should devolve on to schools but a daily part of living and accepted parental responsibility. As much as teaching them to walk, talk, ride a bike, manage a budget or read a book. Not only is it a life skill but a great way of connecting with ones children in a shared experience. One of the most important and loving shared experiences. The kitchen is the heart of the home because of its connection to the display of nurturing instinct. To provide nourishment for those we love.