“Learn how to cook--Try new recipes, Learn from your mistakes, Be fearless, and above all, HAVE FUN!”--Julia Child
When my kids were tiny, I was determined to instill the love of cooking in them. They sensed my desperation and showed little interest in the kitchen. There was the time when I embarked on a handmade gingerbread village with my first three year old. I was starry-eyed, imagining ours would be perfect, just like the photo in the fancy food magazine.
OK it was a disaster! What was I thinking? Perhaps I should have started with a realistic graham cracker milk carton cabin.
We swore off gingerbread projects for awhile, but eventually each of my daughters has come around to the kitchen and there are no more tears involved. Now we laugh, even if there’s a mistake. (And we enjoy our coffee table book The Gingerbread Architect ).
One by one, I figured out simple tasks that they could master and followed their lead of interest rather than forcing them.
So we started amassing a collection of kitchen tools that were kid-friendly, if not exactly advertised as ‘for kids.’ Maybe your kids (grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors) aren’t quite ready for chopping onions with an 8-inch chef’s knife, but they can stir the onions you chopped as they saute.
They can measure, mix, and mash. They can also spin salad, grate cheese, peel carrots. Before you know it, you’ll be having tons of fun in the kitchen with your helper at the ready, and in minutes, all smiles, dinner is on the table.
As Rose, an eight-year old cooking student observed, “A kitchen is a classroom in a cook’s world.” Math, science, reading, writing, and culture are all covered! Kids have it all figured out--invite them to the kitchen.
For mess-proof cooking with kids, think BIG.
Big mixing bowls, even for small jobs, help kids keep their ingredients in the bowl rather than spilling out everywhere.
Big cutting boards also help contain their mess to a minimum.
Cookbooks with colorful illustrations or step-by-step photos engage kids and give them confidence. A few favorites:
Salad People, Pretend Soup, and Honest Pretzels, all by Mollie Katzen
Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures by Rick and Lanie Bayless
Cooking on a Stick by Linda White, for campfire cooking fun
CHOP CHOP: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family by Sally Sampson (also available as a magazine subscription)
Counter Intelligence The Best of April’s Kitchen (Smart, Delicious Recipes from my Family to Yours) by Yours Truly
Tools with comfortable handles are great for kids. They also love colorful gear--mix and match a rainbow of tools.
Cooking is contagious -- spread the love!