Tag Archives: kids

Kids in The Kitchen: 10 Tips for Teaching Kids to Cook

My mother never shooed us out of the kitchen. Instead she put us to work! Since I am from a very big family (12 children), in a word, it was chaos, but it was beautiful chaos. I prepared my first full meal when I was only 8 years old. My mother grew up in a family where everything was cooked from cans, so it was very important to her that we know how to cook from scratch. As a teenager she taught herself to cook real food and then took over the family meals. One of the first things that I ever learned how to make was bread, and the first job we had as kids was to knead the dough. I can imagine now that my mother may not have wanted to do all of the kneading herself – she baked bread every Saturday – but at the time it was great fun!

When I was in college, I found out that not everyone’s mothers thought that learning to cook was important – I taught a few roommates how to do some simple things – like read recipes, boil water to make pasta, make dinner rolls, and to bake cookies (a skill that no enterprising – and starving – college girl should be without!) But I appreciate the skills I learned as a child even more as a mom. After meeting people who didn’t even know how to boil water or follow simple instructions on a box of rice-a-roni (which I honestly had never even HEARD of until I was in college), I decided that ALL of my kids would learn to cook because there is nothing sadder than an adult college student struggling on a small budget, who can’t even take care of themselves in this most basic way.

So here it is! My list of ten tips to help you teach your kids how to cook:

  1. Never shoo your children out of the kitchen. Instead, put them to work! Even small children can do something, even if you just give them a small piece of dough to play with. At 3, measure ingredients and let them put the measured ingredients into the mixing bowl. At 4 and 5, you can hand them a vegetable peeler. At 6, let them read the ingredients out of the recipe book and show them how to measure. You can set them up with a knife to chop vegetables (supervised of course) and at 7, let them measure out ingredients for you, or even try a simple recipe all by themselves. At 8, let them prepare a simple meal for the whole family without any help.  Not only have they learned an important skill, but they have realized that they can be an important member of the family, and they have earned confidence!
  2. Provide your children with easy access to healthy recipes that are easy to follow, and that are in a format that is easy to use and can take a beating. You may be interested in my Healthy Kid’s Recipe Cards, which you can find online here
  3. Hold a weekly family night or regular family activities so that you can provide additional opportunities for your children to make snacks or treats to showcase their newly learned skills.
  4. Praise them when it is warranted. Do not overdo it by ignoring faults and flops though – good food is expensive and good instruction that includes correction when needed helps avoid unnecessary waste. I recommend a sandwich style praise and correction model. If the recipe turned out badly, praise them for what they did right (wow, you did this all by yourself?) and then provide gentle instructions (next time, call me in if you need help with measuring the salt.) Then another good thing (It looks like you baked these for just the right amount of time!)Your child will want to know what went wrong so that they can make it better the next time around.
  5. Expect your boys to learn as well as your girls! Boys need these skills just as much as anyone now! You can’t make the mistake of assuming that your son’s wife will know how to cook or you may end up with grand kids who are part of the McD’s generation. Besides, it might be just the thing that will help him catch the girl of his dreams! My husband cooked for me on our first date. Children who learn to cook are less expensive to support through college, and will be healthier as well.
  6. As your children get older, do not hesitate to give them more responsibilities. Alternate the responsibilities for making breakfasts, allow them to pack their own lunches for school, and assign them one night a week to make dinner for the family.
  7. Always verbally thank the one responsible for the meal publicly around the dinner table. Point out the best parts of the meal and say exactly what you like about it. This is not the forum for corrections unless the child acknowledges something himself – like if a cake fell or if there was too much pepper in the gravy.  If they point it out themselves  in this setting, you can down play it for the moment (“yes, but the potatoes are perfect!”) and help them fix it later.
  8. When your child is old enough, help them plan a month of menus and execute a shopping trip. This lets your child learn the logistics of planning a meal from start to finish, including what constitutes a balanced meal, what you have already on hand and which items they will need to buy, and how much those things actually cost.  A child should be able to plan one day’s meals at the age of 7 or 8, a week’s worth of menus at 9 or 10, and a month of menus at 11 or 12.
  9. Don’t hold back on letting your child make a complicated recipe. I made bread on my own for the first time when I was not even 8 years old. You as the parent can trust your instincts about what your child is capable of at what age. Allow your child to challenge herself even if you are not sure if she can do it on her own. I was pleasantly surprised the first time my daughter made apple pie.
  10. Avoid relying on boxed items or pre-made foods for teaching kids how to cook. Children can read and understand recipes and it is a good opportunity for kids to learn about measurements, how ingredients work in a recipe, and many other things that kids can’t learn by making ramen noodles or microwavable boxed macaroni and cheese. Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for, and besides, teaching from scratch allows your child to form good nutritional habits early on, which will allow them to have a healthier lifestyle and a better quality of life.

Where’s The Beef!?

Or should I say “Where’s the blog?” I have really been starting to feel the guilt of a sadly neglected blog weighing down on me lately, and in my defense, since school started this year, for me it really just seems like a few days . . . so, I will give you all a recap of where my last few months have disappeared to.

1. A new school year, always means new teacher drama for me as my very active and gifted son, Zee, adjusts to a new school year and new teachers. Let me recap – Me: Zee, school is starting up again next week. Zee: complete and utter melt down, involving kicking, screaming, etc. Me: You have to go, I can’t leave you home alone, blah, blah, blah, and all kinds of other reasons that mean absolutely nothing to him, while in my heart I am wishing I could quit my job and homeschool him so he could have an education from someone who really appreciated his genius, even though it is trying at times, (like when he took the door handle and latch on the sliding glass door apart and reassembled it backwards when he was 3.)

Time lapse – school has started and I am once again getting daily notes and phone calls from the school. A new teacher who I had so much hope for at the back to school night, because she had rotating classroom assignments, which is always a good thing for Zee, because he is just one of those kids who needs a special job. But no, it seems those only apply to a certain part of the day. And the teacher insists that he must do worksheets and readers – the really mundane ones with two or three words to a page. He has been reading words since he was 2. He hates the readers and tears them up on the way home from school so I won’t make him read them. They send home 6 a week, each one to be read 3 times each. HELL. Not that he can’t, but he wont. He got a zero on his reading assessment, and was in the 95th percentile for comprehension. HOW does that happen? I can tell you, the but teacher is ‘puzzled.’  I call the teacher and tell them we will be opting out and reading Charlotte’s Web instead. It is a book he picked out on his own and has been reading a little at a time already, even though it is hard right now for any book to hold his attention for very long. More notes and phone calls – he is hiding under his desk, pretending to eat gravel on the playground at recess, not staying in his seat, chewing on paper, talking to himself at his desk (probably on some Calvinesque adventure) turning the lights on and off, not bringing his ‘stop and go’ slips back to school with my signature, etc., etc, etc.

Then they call me in for a meeting with the teacher. She informs me that he is not behind, but that she is worried that he might fall behind at some future point. It would be terribly unjust of me to not take him to the doctor and put him on meds because if he falls behind it could jeopardize his entire school career. Me: He is board. I am not going to have him medicated for being board. Teacher: No, he is not board, he just refuses to do his work. He needs to be on medication. It’s not fair for you to not medicate him! Me: Over my dead body will this kid be medicated. They bring in the school councilor who says that he has been observing him over the last week and that he was only on task for some percent of time. Me: did you send him back to his seat? Teacher: I can’t be sending him back to his seat all the time. Me: did you give him a special job like I suggested? (That really helped last year) No, they did not. can they give him more challenging material? No, the district requires this set of readers and this stack of worksheets for every second grader in the district. Me: Kids are not cookie cutter replicas of each other. This is not working and something has to change! They say that they know this but their hands are tied. The district dictates it. (Yeah, bs!) I tell them I don’t give a crap about what the district says, I will not medicate my son for the reasons they stated, and if they can’t find a way to fix it, they will just have to deal with it.

canning tomato sauce

I go home and dig up research and info on the law about a teacher suggesting medication in the great state of Utah and the law is on my side :) I print the legislation and research studies and other information. (The Australian.com: Kids on ADHD Drugs Do Poor at School) look into other schools for him. A week later I am called in again, this time to meet with the principal and a district special ed specialist. I am armed with my husband, a voice recorder, and all the papers I printed out. I was pretty sure that they were going to bully me into medicating. I had an “Acceptance of Responsibility” form ready for them to sign just in case they pushed it that far. It turns out that the district specialist didn’t know about the medication issue, and the principle was hoping to keep it that way. I didn’t give her the pleasure. At the same time, I didn’t end up needing the form – the specialist said he had observed Zee and agreed with me that he was board and didn’t need to be medicated. I let them know that there would be a legal issue if it was ever brought up again, and that was the end of that. Now the teacher is doing ‘interventions’ or more plainly, alternative learning activities instead of worksheets. But I am sure she wasn’t excited about having to do one more extra thing. Especially for the kid who asked her if she was going to shave her mustache. It was an honest question – really he didn’t mean to be rude! (but I did have a talk with him about tact and appropriate ways to ignore other peoples unsightly features.)  Now the drama has gone back under the surface, but I am pretty sure that next year it will resurface and rear its ugly head once more.

2.In the midst of all the teacher troubles, I am on a quest for real food real cheap, since we are also broke, and I refuse to resort to the use of artificial food-like substances to feed my family. I found a lot of good stuff in the classified ads, and all organic and locally grown! Woohoo! It felt pretty good to have something going right! I got 6 bushels of heirloom tomatoes, 24 sugar pie pumpkins, 200 lbs of potatoes, 30 lbs of onions, also organic, 2 huge banana squash, 7lbs shelled walnuts, 1 quart jar of no sugar pectin, a 25lb bag of brown short grain rice (the only thing not local) all for less than a regular grocery shopping trip. And I just scored a quarter of a grass fed beef for $1.50 a lb cut and wrapped! We will be set for groceries for a while :) Looks like I found the beef!

3. Canning, freezing and preserving all the food

4. And, I made a nice big batch of my Momma Nature’s No More Owies (or Owie Cream as my kids like to call it)

5. Not to mention work. Did I mention work?! :( I have one question – How did I survive?!

6. Up next, helping the kids with their homemade Christmas presents. I just helped my oldest daughter refinish her dresser so she could sell it so she could have money to buy her friends presents. It looks amazing!