As parents, we try to prepare our kids to be independent adults. There are so many life skills that need to be taught in the short time they live with us. One of them is learning to cook. Some kids love this process and others would rather have all their food cooked and set before them without lifting a finger. Oh, wait. Sorry. That’s me.
Seriously, how can you go about teaching your kids to make a meal for themselves?. Here’s what I started doing when my three kids were around eight to ten years old. You can start whenever you feel your child is ready to tackle something like this.
Every summer, we’d have one night a week where one child would plan a meal, prepare it, and clean up afterwards. Thursday nights were our kids’ cooking nights. They’d alternate weeks. Their meal had to have an item from each of the five food groups: dairy, meat, bread, vegetable, and fruit. Here’s a link to help kids choose food that fit those groups. http://www.thelovechef.com/kids/food_groups.html
Early in the week, the cook of the week would look through cookbooks, especially their junior cookbooks, to find ideas. We’d mark each recipe with a bookmark for easy reference. Then we’d make a shopping list of necessary ingredients, so by Thursday, we were ready to cook.
When we first started this summer project, the kids needed a lot of help and guidance to get their meal planned and made. We allowed extra prep time to ensure it would be done at a reasonable eating time. Remember, it will take your child longer than you to figure out measurements, find the right tools in the kitchen, and to simply figure out how to read a recipe. There are lots of abbreviations for them to learn! By allowing plenty of time, you can stay relaxed and have fun teaching them to cook.
By the end of the summer, my kids were much more self sufficient at creating a meal from start to finish. I was available to answer questions as they arose, but they enjoyed feeling like they could do it themselves.
Here’s a simple recipe I recently taught my ten-year-old grandson.
1 flour tortilla per person
2 cheese sticks per person (I use colby/jack sticks)
- Place tortilla on a plate
- Break cheese sticks in half and place them in 2 v-shapes on one half of the tortilla
- Fold the tortilla in half
- Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds
- Remove from microwave and press the folded tortilla with a fork to spread the cheese around
- Using a pizza cutter, cut the quesadilla into three pieces.
You can also add shredded chicken or beef before cooking if you’d like. Top with salsa, sour cream and guacamole if desired. Serve fruit as a side dish or dessert.
Above all, have fun with your kids as you coach them in the kitchen. Don’t fret over spills, messes, and failed attempts. It’s all part of the learning process. Encourage without criticism. Laugh instead of getting frustrated. Keep a good sense of humor. If you do, you’ll have fond memories of this time spent with your kids, and they’ll be able to make a few meals for themselves when you aren’t available to do it for them. But more importantly, they’ll have special memories of happy times spent in the kitchen with you!
Do you have an easy recipe you can share with us? How about a favorite kids cookbook? I can’t wait to hear from you!