Kitchen skills for kids: A family affair
"Mom, what’s for dinner” is one of those phrases that has been asked and will continue to be asked until the end of time. After all, food is the language of love, and for a mom…. food equals love!
“Can I help” may be a dream for some moms to hear; however for others, it may cause worry. Most of the time a quick and easy meal is the priority, but what about extra time that could be spent with your children in the kitchen?
“Spending quality time with your children, especially in the kitchen, benefits everyone in the family in many ways”, says Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program Specialist. Engaging your children in family mealtime helps create close bonds, teaches your children about healthful eating, and teaches them about kitchen safety. Preparing meals and cooking together, not only builds excitement but starts daily conversations.
Engage your children in preparing meals with easy skills that will last a lifetime. Start with basic skills appropriate for their age and interest.
For younger children, ages 2-5, make basic tasks seem important, especially since their attention span is shorter. Vary tasks such as washing produce, stirring batter or dressings, measuring, pouring liquid, and cutting soft foods with a plastic knife.
Children 6-8 years old are always eager to help. You can practice their reading, by reading recipes together and practice simple math when measuring foods. Children in this age group can help peel fruits and vegetables, use small gadgets like a can opener, collect ingredients to make a recipe (scavenger hunt), and help decorate desserts.
Older children, from 9-12 years old, can provide more assistance in preparing for meals. Basic knife skills and food safety, as well as knowing how to use appliances, should be easy for this age group. Children can help trim and slice foods, use a blender or standing mixer and sauté foods in a skillet.
Teenage children, from ages 13-16, can be your personal sous chefs. Planning and preparing some easy meals should be an easy task for them. Using knife skills, such as chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing can be completed with adult supervision. Following a recipe from beginning to end, encourages independence and accomplishment. Learning how to grill on an outdoor grill can also be a new task to research and learn.
Encouraging your children to help in the kitchen, fosters life skills while also building a connection with them. It is important to always have an adult present in the kitchen, regardless of age, to keep everyone safe. Also, remember to follow good food safety practices to prevent cross contamination. You can learn more about food safety, cooking tips and tricks, and healthy recipes at dinnertonight.tamu,edu.
For more information on skills for kids to try in the kitchen, family mealtime, or food safety, contact your Brown County Extension Agent at 325-646-0386.