A few weeks ago I did a cooking demonstration at the DC Convention Center with an audience of adults and kids. When I asked the kids how many of them like to cook, lots of hands shot up. When I followed up by asking how many of them cooked savory food or meals rather than baking cookies, only one lonely hand stayed in the air.
The kids were enthusiastic audience members, so when I asked why they didn't cook more, some said their moms didn't want them to make a mess, and others said their parents didn't want them to cut themselves. I wondered: Are we parents unintentionally driving our kids out of the kitchen with our worries and fears?
I cook with kids whenever I can, whether it's our son and daughter, our nieces and nephews, or my friends' children. In my many years working with kids, I have never met a single one that didn't want to try cooking, even if they never had before. But I have met many parents who unwittingly squelch their kids' desire to cook.
For example, when I talk to parents, many of them say they don't cook with their kids beyond baking cookies or making brownies. Yet they wish their kids would learn to cook, even make dinner for the family once in a while.
There's a place for making cookies and cupcakes with our kids, and it can be a lot of fun. But if we REALLY want our kids to love good food and be able to shop for and prepare meals when they are living on their own, we need to involve them in making more than sweet treats. And we need to embrace ways to welcome them into the kitchen rather than inadvertently driving them away.
Here are 7 mistakes I find we parents often make when approaching cooking with kids, and how we can turn them around.
(And one caveat first: Obviously, bigger kids can do more than smaller kids, and safety is paramount. But in general, kids can do more in the kitchen than we think, no matter what their age.)
With a few tweaks to our own behavior and calming of our nerves, we parents can inspire our kids to cook. Even if our child doesn't become a Top Chef, she or he can become capable in the kitchen and learn perhaps the most valuable life skill of all.
, an online healthy meal planner. Her new bestselling cookbook is The Six O'Clock Scramble Meal Planner: A Year of Quick, Delicious Meals to Help You Prevent and Manage Diabetes.