Some of you follow me on Instagram, and have seen my boys cook and make breakfast, lunch, or even dinner at times. One of them cooks because he truly adores culinary arts, but two of them primarily help out in the kitchen because, well...they want to eat.
I regularly get questions about how I taught my kids to cook and when it's the right time to start training them. My answer to that is quite simple and maybe not super helpful:
When kids ask to help, say YES.
Hand them a vegetable peeler or a knife, and teach them safety. When kids don't ask to help, ask them to anyway. Hand them a whisk and give them eggs to beat. If you want your kids to cook, allow them to make you inefficient. Let them shadow you. Give them a chance to taste and critique your cooking. Make it a process that is relational and not just responsible. Skills in the kitchen is one I don't think anyone ever regrets having. Ever.
And as for age, my answer to that is simplistic as well:
Start them in the kitchen as soon as they can use their hands to follow directions.
Even if they are not using a sharp knife or turning on a burner, kids can be apart of the kitchen simply by contributing to a meal-making process: think stirring, transferring ingredients to a bowl, or bagging up leftover veggies.
One of the first things our boys learn to cook is the breakfast quesadilla and a well-basted egg. But long before they are cooking eggs, the boys are required to prepare their own lunches for school days and prep their own snacks. Sometimes they take turns and sometimes it's an assembly line, but lunches are always made by young hands.
A crowd favorite for lunchtime snacks is a make it yourself trail mix.We set out bowls of Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® crackers, almonds, popcorn, raisins and sometimes M&Ms, and the boys fill up individual sandwich bags for the week. Everyone loves the pairing of savory Goldfish crackers with the sweet and crunchy textures of the rest of the mix. (Frankly, it's one of my favorite afternoon pick-me-up snacks too!)
Kids making their own snacks is really one of the best ways to get kids comfortable in the kitchen, and (ahem) will also save your summer. As with most new skills, a sense of accomplishment builds more confidence in experimenting and learning more. And so it is with kids in the kitchen: Goldfish® trail mix today just might lead to a good sautée one day.
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