Teach your kids to cook

Learning to cook boosts a child’s self-esteem, gives them a skill for life and helps their maths. Best of all, it’s great fun!

By Donna Fleming
One of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them how to cook. Being able to put a nutritious meal together from scratch is a very useful skill, yet it’s astonishing how many young adults leave home not knowing how to cook because their parents have never shown them.
If you only teach your children the basics and put them in charge of dinner once a week or even once a month, you’ll still be passing on an invaluable ability they’ll appreciate later on.
Being able to cook can give kids an appreciation of what goes into making a meal and is especially good for fussy eaters, who may be more likely to try different foods if they have cooked them themselves.

Learning to cook can benefit your kids in other ways too:

  • Measuring ingredients and working out cooking times can help with maths
  • It encourages them to be independent
  • It can boost their self-esteem and give them a sense of accomplishment
  • It teaches them to problem solve when things go wrong
  • If they are cooking with someone else, it can teach them about teamwork

Getting started

Baking is a good way to get small children interested in cooking, but don’t restrict yourself to just making sweet treats. Encourage them to be your sous chef when you’re making dinner and start them off by giving them easy tasks like stirring food, making a salad dressing or adding ingredients to dishes.

Good dishes for children to have a go at cooking:

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pizza – “decorating” with different toppings is a lot of fun
  • One-pot dishes such as casseroles or stews
  • Macaroni cheese
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Stir-fries
  • Sushi (you can buy sushi-making kits)

Safety first

The fact there are so many potential hazards puts a lot of parents off allowing their kids in the kitchen. But if you teach them to be careful and to do things safely from the word go, they will develop a healthy respect for sharp implements and hot stoves, and be able to deal with them confidently.

Kitchen rules for your kids:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly first, and wash them again if you handle raw meat
  2. Cut with the knife blade pointing away from you and keep your fingers well clear
  3. Don’t leave handles of pans on the stove sticking out
  4. Remember that ovens and hobs stay hot even once the heat has been turned off. Treat every element as if it is hot
  5. Hot fat will spit and splatter so stand well back
  6. Never put your hand in a food processor or blender if it is plugged in
  7. Always use oven gloves to get hot food out of the oven. You may also need them with some dishes that go in the microwave
  8. Never use a metal knife, fork or tongs to get toast out of a toaster. (Invest in wooden tongs which you can keep beside the toaster in case of emergencies)
  9. Remember that steam escaping from a kettle or pan is very hot and can scald
  10. Never run in the kitchen, especially if you have utensils in your hands.
Image credit: Dean Wilmot/ bauersyndication.com.au

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