Teaching your kids to cook is an investment of time and patience (lots of it!) that will pay you back ten fold.
I would suggest getting your children into the kitchen at the age of three or four. They are so cute and curious at that age. If they can hold a small wooden spoon in their tiny little hands, they’re ready.
Mixing cookie dough in a bowl (plastic or stainless steel), washing veggies, scrambling eggs with a whisk, making chocolate milk in a plastic tumbler, dipping strawberries in chocolate, making mini meatballs (with clean hands of course): all these things are great starters for the little ones.
As they get a little older, making their own breakfast is a great second step. Not only does it give you time to get ready for work, but it builds confidence in them knowing that they are helping mom and dad in the early morning rush. I believe it encourages kids to appreciate eating breakfast before going to school once they know they can cook it themselves.
A microwave oven is an absolute must for having 6 and 7 year olds cooking up that first meal of the day. By teaching them that there is more to breakfast than the occasional cereal bowl, they will be more prone to eating breakfast, that all important meal of the day. Have them make scrambled eggs in the microwave along with some precooked sausage links. They can warm up some precooked pancakes that they made themselves over the weekend and stored in the freezer.
This is also a good age for the kids to start helping out with the dinner preparations. It’s an excellent learning process. They are learning to read (recipes), do some math (quantities), and problem solve (“we don’t have that ingredient!, what can we use as a substitute?”).
When you can assist and encourage a child to help prepare a meal, by more than just setting the table, you help them realize their abilities, develop their dexterity, develop some pride in what they can accomplish and most importantly, help them become self-sufficient. This last one will give you some peace of mind knowing your child will never go hungry because you weren’t there to cook a meal for them. AND, they know they won’t have to limit their diet to ramen and pb&j sandwiches when they’re away from home during those long college semesters.
I believe the final reason to teach your children to cook starting at an early age is that it gives you the opportunity to create memories. From the broken eggs on the floor, the flour covered faces, mistaking a teaspoon for a tablespoon, to making their first cake for Father’s day or your birthday. Capture those moments in photos, in writing, in conversations around the dinner table. Despite the cost of food these days, you can replace a glass of split milk, but you will never recapture that first look of surprise (or relief) on your child’s face when you smile and offer to help in cleaning it up and encourage them to try again.
Children are a very special gift to us. Whether they are our own, or our nieces and nephews, or they belong to your best friend. Treat them with kindness and respect. Give them a positive direction in life. Love them today as if there is no tomorrow. You will sleep better at night and you’ll get help in the kitchen.
Easy Butter Cookies
1cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 – 2 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and blend in well. Slowly add flour in mix in well. Chill the dough in refrigerator for easier handling.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Roll Out a small portion of the dough between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper. Dip cookie cutters in powdered sugar and cut out desired shaped. Place cutouts on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Cool on sheet over cooling rack for 6 to 8 minutes before removing cookies with a spatula to plate.