5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Love Cooking
5. Shop with them
Bringing kids into the grocery store, especially toddlers, can be a hassle, for both you and the other shoppers. But the nice old ladies, and the lessons the kids can learn are worth the headache.
To keep the kids behaving and help them understand food, reward them with a fruit, instead of candy. If you bring your kids to the fruit aisle and allow them to choose a fruit for good behavior, and require they vary their selection each time, they will gravitate toward the more bizarre fruits. They will learn to be experimental.
Ask them what things taste like to spark their curiosity and allow their imagination to do the hard work of convincing them they like something.
Point out prices, and help them do some simple math, to figure out how much a single portion of something will cost. A valuable math lesson and a lesson which will remind them that “food costs money!”
4. Involve them in the entire process of cooking—including the “dangerous” parts
Chances are you’ve taken a kitchen tool away from the kids on more than one occasion, and chances are better one of them was a knife. Unless you have finely honed steel knives, this should be something you encourage…at the correct times and under the correct supervision. Teaching kids the proper way to handle a knife and respect for that knife will take away the mystery and translate to more appreciation for the dangers. Most kitchens have at least one fifty-cent knife, which is shaped like a chef knife, looks like a chef knife, but isn’t. Toddlers won’t be strong enough to cut themselves with that fifty-cent knife. Use it as a practice knife, and buy a practice cucumber each week.
Don’t cook your kids. Burns hurt, but they’re great teachers. Allowing your kids to put things in the oven, or stir sauce on the stove may teach them a hard lesson, but a lesson nonetheless. If you show them to be careful, and how to handle the equipment correctly, instead of forbidding it, the mystery will vanish.
Make cleanup fun! Then invent a perpetual-motion machine, then tackle World Peace.
3. Don’t make them cry when they spill the milk
Professional chefs spill things all the time. Grownups spill, too. The kids are going to make a mess, so be ready for it. Have a broom handy, or lay a shower curtain on the ground where you are working, depending on the scale of mess you expect. Cleaning as you go will teach the kids to be organized and help them become more efficient. The saying goes, “A clean kitchen is a slightly-less-disgruntled kitchen.”
This is strong advice to give to adults who want to learn how to get off of the couch and into a kitchen. Kids must taste everything! And they will want to taste things which you have never tasted, such as raw potatoes. Keep the raw meats and chicken away from the other ingredients, and encourage them to do this. It will give them an understanding of what french fries are. Teach science, or demonstrate the change of the ingredients throughout the various cooking stages. The curiosity bug will take over, and they will want to see more, and learn more.
Kids have the attention span of gnats, and their impatience will require you to let them snack as they cook. Keep this in mind when planning your dinner. Let them have a small piece of as many ingredients as possible, even the dry pasta and flour.
Season food with them. Taste before and after. Taste the seasonings themselves.
1. Love to Cook!
How can you expect the kids to want to cook if you don’t want to cook? If you and your spouse constantly argue about whose turn it is to cook, only to settle on take-out, kids will learn that cooking is a chore. If you are sick of cooking, try to do new things that you haven’t made before. Cooking is really quite simple, and if something looks too hard to make, it probably just has a snazzy garnish on it. So skip the garnish, and make it! You might not find everything to be your favorite, but you will have fed your family, and learned something.
Just remember how children are sponges, and absorb everything. When you go out to eat, and you tell the waiter you don’t want onions on your salad, or hold the sauce, you are teaching kids that it is okay to be closed minded. When you scold them for not eating their broccoli, and they say they hate broccoli, it’s because they heard it from a friend, or saw it on TV. Or it may be really overcooked and poorly seasoned, which you can fix. You don’t have to eat the broccoli, or onions, just don’t let the kids know.
If your toddler tells you something you made tastes like Styrofoam, he has a discerning palate; he is complementing you. Toddlers love Styrofoam. But, just to be safe, you should skip the next Hamburger Helper day.