Yes, you read it right, kids in the kitchen
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Let’s be honest who doesn't love a delicious cupcake with oozing fudge in the middle, pink lightly fluffy topping and that irresistible crunch in the form of a chocolate butterfly... hmmmmmmm
However, cooking is actually chopping carrots, slicing onions, maybe dusting flower to create something as great as a home cooked cottage pie.
It might sound crazy, but I can assure you children are more than capable to perform some tasks from the very early age.
I believe kids are really great with food. There are a number of reasons to involve them:
- they are under your feet with a free pair of hands
- learning life-skills from a very early age
- picky eaters more likely to eat their own creations
- understand and realise that real food is not in a shape of a dinosaur in the frozen isle or chocolate (actually I can relate to that)
- nutrition is not a fancy word for fancy people
- vegetables really are edible
The list could go on, I think we all understand that cooking is a life skill and a passion which should be encouraged from a very early age.
The problem is that not everyone knows how, where and what.
This is the reason I decided to write about ages and appropriate activities for kids.
Please make sure they are safe by supervising them and only let them do what you as a parent think is appropriate.
Always use protective equipment like aprons and oven gloves.
Under 3 years of age
This is the age when kids learn from everything their parents do. They love to watch and copy.
Their main fixation is in sensory experiences. They love to touch, feel, smell, weigh, bite things around them.
This is the parent’s opportunity to engage them with their sensory skills:
- Teach them awareness of dangers (talk)
- Rolling pasta dough
- Imitating cooking with toys
- Pouring skills (water)
- Washing food (fruit and veg)
- Stirring (in a big bowl)
- Sprinkling (flour, sugar)
- Trying different textures (pasta, flour, fondant etc.)
- Talk to them about hygiene (washing hands, clean surfaces)
- Shopping: talk about food
- Tasting everything
3-4 years of age
We have a huge task on our hands. Most kids at this age are trying to be very independent. They want to do everything unsupervised. Everything. They are capable of understanding rules.
Their fine motor skills are mostly developed, so you can give them jobs, they can do all on their own:
- Mashing (potatoes, carrots)
- Kneading bread dough
- Using pestle and mortar
- Rolling and piercing shapes
- Cookie decorating
- Using a sieve
- Chopping/cutting with plastic knife
- Choosing ingredients while shopping
- Cleaning up spillages
- Measuring jugs and pouring
- Picking out the right tool for the job in hand
- Spreading butter
5-6 years of age
At this age group we can start introducing recipes, measurements and weights. Most children develop a natural interest for the above things. They learn to use numbers and how to read. They are also very good with hand coordination and precision:
- Teach them about hot and cold temperatures
- Using scissors
- Cutting/chopping with small knife supervised
- Using measuring spoons
- Greasing tins
- Using scale
- Cracking an egg
- Planning Ingredients
- Starting various electrical equipment (mixer, etc.)
- Reading recipes out loud
- Making toast
7-8 years of age
Kids minds blossom at this age. They develop a greater understanding of the world around them and learn to reason. They needed to be reminded of authority, however their mind should be left sailing their thoughts. Lots of explanation of how things work and why is essential to keep them occupied. They are creative and will show you through their “inventions” in the kitchen:
- Teach them to be aware of dangers of preparation and cooking
- Making a cup of tea!!!
- Using small knife independently (still supervised)
- Gathering ingredients and equipment before cooking
- Preparing vegetables (wash/peel/cut/grate)
- Separating an egg
- Forming meatballs, burgers
- Spooning cupcake mix
- Using hand mixer supervised
9-10 years of age
By this age most children have a very clear idea how things work and where they belong in their surroundings. They are really capable to create their own meals from beginning to the end. Their minds are full with new ideas so let them explore under our supervision:
- Teach them to use the hob and oven with supervision
- Using different types of knives
- Cleaning and preparing meat and fish
- Preparing vegetables/fruit
- Loading/unloading dishwasher
- Teach them to understand and practice all hygiene rules
- Making meals independently which don't required cooking
- Stirring and tasting from a pot with supervision
Over 10 years old
Kids at this age are somewhere between children and adults whom really with forming sense of the world around them; they are very independent and expect this to be fully understood. Show them your trust with giving them complete tasks:
- Teach them slicing
- Using hob and oven independently
- Cooking simple foods (eggs, soups)
- Let them prepare meals from start to finish unsupervised
- Teach them to understand temperature guidelines (hot and cold food items)
- Using different types of knives
I believe these skills mentioned will teach our children to appreciate food and what goes into a well prepared dish which contributes hugely in family or social gatherings.
Don’t forget this is my own understanding of this subject. The ages and skills stated above are considered with my experiences and knowledge of the world.
Also do consider this is by any means not a rule of thumb or strict guideline, as every child is different and develops uniquely. The only person who can decide when is appropriate is you, the parent. You are the person who understands and knows your child the best.
I hope I did not bore you, the article turned out a touch longer than planned.
If you liked it, please comment, share, follow or subscribe, there will be more posts to follow.
Further reading, related articles:
NHS Choices - Kids in the kitchen
Netmums - Cooking with kids
A really useful website - Kids and cooking