As more of us become dependent on ready-made meals, cooking is becoming a skill that is more and more rare in young people, despite the opportunity it offers to save a significant amount of money and contribute to better health. Teaching your children how to cook at a young age will save them a lifetime of instant food, expensive grocery bills and poor diet. Below, you'll find the five stages of teaching your children to cook, and by the end of these stages, your kids will be well equipped for college!
1. 3-6 Years Old: Helping with the Basics
At this stage, children can begin to participate in kitchen activities under close supervision. Try giving your children fruits and vegetables to wash, as this also teaches children about cleanliness. Your children can learn to wipe the table clean, make shapes with cookie cutters, and help stir batter. It's important that children only participate under close supervision at this stage in their development, as motor skills are still developing and a stool will likely be necessary for children to reach the sink and counter tops.
2. 6-10 Years Old: Math and Writing
As children become more confident in reading and writing, they can help create shopping lists, read recipes, and use measuring cups for baking and cooking. At this stage, children can also help with more intricate cooking tasks, such as removing the husks from corn, taking peas out of shells, scrubbing potatoes, and spreading butter with a dull knife. As children grow older, they can also begin to learn more about the concept of timing, and this is a great activity to practice telling time!
3. 10-13 Years Old: Transition
Once children understand the basics of cooking and have more confidence in performing tasks without direct help from parents, they can learn more complex tasks that require advanced judgment and planning. At this stage, children who have a good understanding of the basic rules of cooking can start to follow simple recipes unsupervised. No-bake cookies and sandwiches are a great place to start. Children can learn to use a microwave at this stage, and under close supervision, they can also learn to use a stove. Older children can also use a grater, a hand mixer and chopping knives, but only with supervision. Around this age, children can begin to use more complex recipes, or take on tasks in the kitchen unsupervised, such as mixing salad dressing or making scrambled eggs in the microwave.
4. Adolescence: Preparing for Independence
As adolescents crave more responsibility and autonomy, they can be rewarded with a greater freedom in the kitchen. This is an ideal stage to introduce the concept of meal planning, creating a menu for entertaining, budgeting for weekly grocery shopping, and creating balanced meals. A teenager can learn to operate blenders and food processors and make smoothies, cake batter and dressings. At this age, it's also important to teach children the importance of hygiene, including how long food can be stored, how to sanitize dishes, and how to reheat food thoroughly.
Guiding children through these stages will be a gift that they will take with them for many years to come! While it seems like a large amount of time and supervision is needed in the beginning, the sooner that children learn real life skills and independence, the easier their early adolescence will be for everyone in your home.
Drew Brock likes to write about cooking, family life & saving money at www.dentalinsurance.net.