Cooking with Kids
Transform the kitchen into a hands-on classroom this holiday season, while teaching the kids more than how to crack an egg.
By Vicki Martinez
Teachable moments are often thought of as spontaneous events that a parent must take advantage of because all the stars have aligned for a perfect moment of life-lesson-learning. But what’s wrong with purposefully creating these moments? With choreographing a situation to develop new life skills?
Perhaps you’ve never thought of cooking that way. You realize it’s important for kids to learn “when they’re ready,” but not as a way to instill valuable life skills. There’s such a great opportunity during the holidays—the kids are out of school, the mood is light and festive, the desire for family bonding is high. So, call the kids into the kitchen because class is in session.
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THE MISE EN PLACE OF PLANNING
The exact scope of mise en place is debatable within the culinary world. Some say it includes every prep step, from reading the recipe and making a shopping list to pre-measuring every ingredient and preheating the oven. Others contend it simply involves chopping, dicing, mincing and grating before cooking begins.
When cooking with children, adjust the extent of your personal mise en place to accommodate age and cooking experience. For example, better for younger kids to help pour and stir ingredients, while older kids are better equipped to handle sharp knives for chopping.
No matter how you approach it, mise en place is a fun way to emphasize the importance of pre-planning and organization.
Lunchbox Pasta Salad with Zucchini, Yellow Squash, and Ham
Mini Wheels with Creamy Spinach & Leek Sauce
Spaghetti with Vegetarian Bolognese Pasta Sauce
Pots, Pans and Problem-Solving
The kitchen is a hotspot for situations that require quick-on-your-feet thinking.
Don’t have a necessary ingredient (or enough of one)? Kids can learn problem-solving by researching simple substitutions for ingredients. This is also a great opportunity to help kids express their individuality through creativity, making substitution suggestions they think would make a great dish even better.
What if it doesn’t work out? Well, any experiment has either a positive or an unsuccessful outcome (a lesson in itself). The point is that they were brave enough to try.
The Final Chapter
As parents, our tendency might be to slap a high-five and send the kids off once the cookies are cooled and packaged or the meal has been devoured. Don’t miss out on this last and ever-important teachable moment.
Although kitchen clean-up is the least fun, it’s important to include children. Use this moment to teach them about follow-through or seeing a job all the way through to completion. Allow them the opportunity to experience the full, true satisfaction of a job well done, from beginning to end.
Nervous about letting the kids in the kitchen? Get some fun ideas from one very witty and creative mom. Read: “How to Teach Your Children to Cook Without Losing Your Mind.”
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