Teach Your Child How to Cook at Every Age

— You can never be too young to develop a passion for food —

3 5Yrs Cooking

Some of the world’s greatest chefs speak at length about how their love for cuisine started early. From toddler age through their teenage years, children continuously grow their motor skills and knowledge of the world around them, making childhood an ideal time to learn how to create nutritious and well-prepared food. As a parent you can help them develop crucial kitchen skills that they can use for life — below are some tips based on age group:

Three to SIX Years Old

1. Cleanliness Comes First

Now’s the perfect time to learn one of the essentials of cooking – keeping things clean, from your hands & your utensils to your produce. Teach your children about how important it is to wash their hands; you can encourage them to count to 20 or sing a song that they like for the duration of the process so that they know their hands are fully clean. Next, teach them that all fruits and vegetables need to be washed before we can use them. Encourage them to rinse them by holding them under the faucet or submerging them in a bowl filled with cold water. Teach them how to wash cooking utensils and tools with soap and also give them a go at wiping down surfaces.

2. Mixing It All Together

Learning how to combine food by mixing, sifting and kneading is essential for three to five year olds and lays the foundation for how meals are created. An easy way to teach mixing is by making a batter together — help them sift flour into a bowl, add soft ingredients eggs and butter, as well as items like nuts, sugar or raisins. Guide them through mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon or their hands. You might have to help complete the dough as their motor skills may not be that advanced yet, but you will give them a sense of what it’s like to combine ingredients into a final product!

Six to Nine Years Old

1. Knife Necessities

At this age, children have enough dexterity to learn basic knife skills and can graduate from blunt knives to slightly sharper ones. A few simple pointers will set your child up for future cutting success. First, they should always be using two hands to when using a knife, one to fix the object and the other to slice. The fingers should always be tucked under in a C shape to avoid any potential injury. Teach them that all cutting should be done on a board and that the tip of the knife should always touch the board while cutting. This age is also a good time to teach them how to carry a knife — by holding it by the handle with the blade facing towards the back. The knife should then be carried near the thigh to ensure the highest level of safety.

2. Peel to (Almost) Perfection

Between the ages of six to nine years old your child can learn how to peel vegetables and fruits. A fun side effect of this exercise is that can help children familiarize themselves with the variety of produce that exists. Line up four to five fruits and veggies (zucchini, apples, kiwis, carrots, and potatoes are easy and colorful choices). Show your child that each fruit or vegetable has a skin that can be removed (and that some are edible and some aren’t) and carefully walk them through how to use a peeler to remove the outer layer. Let them place the skin in a bowl to admire their work after the task has been completed.

Nine to 11 Years Old

1. How to Organize a Kitchen

Organization and planning are a fundamental part of cooking and at this age, and you can help your child understand how to plan a meal in a variety of ways. For starters, walk them through how to follow a recipe — explain how to write a list, how to prep produce and how to allocate the right amount of time to creating a dish. Getting organized in the kitchen will help them throughout the rest of their lives.

2. Pan Skills

This is a good age to learn how temperature plays a pivotal role in cooking. Help them understand how different temperatures make for different dishes, by sautéing, simmering, braising, boiling or baking. With your supervision teach your child how to sauté vegetables, simmer a tomato sauce, braise a meat of choice, boil pasta and bake potatoes. These are simple dishes that eventually he or she will feel confident enough to create themselves. A fun added touch is using a thermometer to display the temperature and translating that into knowing when your dish is ready. It adds a bit of science to your cooking experience together.

11 to 17 Years Old

1. How to Use Kitchen Equipment

Now that your child has a few cooking techniques under their belt temperature-wise, you can show them how to make tasks like chopping, mixing and kneading easier with the help of kitchen equipment. Guide them through how to use a food processor and allow them to learn how to chop, mince and blend their favorite nuts or vegetables. An easy but exciting recipe to teach them is pesto which employs a simple list of herbs, nuts, and oil to make a delicious sauce that can be used on pasta or bread. Other good pieces of equipment you can help them navigate? Blenders, graters, and juicers which are easy to use and help in everyday meal preparation.

2. Time to Get Creative

Your child now has a grasp of cooking techniques, knowledge of produce and understanding of temperatures — now they can get creative on their own. Show them how to easily change a dish by using ingredients of their choice, for example how an omelet can be made with anything from ham to peppers to cheese to tomatoes or even all of the above. This is a time during which they can take charge and develop their own palate and version of their favorite dishes.


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