How To Cook With Your Grade School Child


Getting your school-age kids in the kitchen is a great way to foster their growing independence and get them started on a path of healthy eating. When they cook, their self-esteem builds from the process: deciphering the recipe, completing the tasks, and eating the delicious food they have made. You empower your child with safe limits, and it is a nurturing time for you both.

Before you start, sit down together and let him or her read over the recipe they have chosen. Talk about the steps, which to do ahead and which steps will be done at the same time, if necessary. Encourage them to set up ingredients—what chefs call mise en place. Suggest they think ahead about utensils, dishes, pots and pans they will need. The cooking will go more smoothly for them if those kinks are worked out and the necessary items within easy reach.

Discuss safety

like basic knife safety and cutting techniques, proper food handling, hand washing. Always keep pot and pan handles turned toward the back of the stove. Make sure you are not wearing loose clothing, and keep hair tied back. If you are unsure about proper techniques, look up videos together on your computer.

Set ground rules

Set proper rules about adult-only kitchen tasks, such as moving food in and out of the oven, cutting with large knives, straining off hot liquids. Let them know when to ask for help.

Be your child’s trusted advisor

Be your child’s advisor and a silent observer unless asked. At this mid-grade stage, it is important to allow your child to read the recipe and decide how it should be accomplished. Stay close to the kitchen; while your child will want to do some things “all by myself,” you want to make sure he or she is practicing safe cooking skills.

Appropriate cooking techniques

Some cooking techniques for this age group include what younger kids can do – spreading, assembling, tearing, pouring, measuring, stirring, and sprinkling – but with less of your assistance. They can cut with a sharper knife, cook at the stovetop (sautéing, pan frying, poaching), operate blenders and mixers, and use a grater. Be sure to review the safety guidelines ahead of cooking.

When you bring your kids into the kitchen, you armor them with skills to plan and prepare delicious, healthy meals. It takes time to instill this knowledge, and much patience and practice. But with a series of small successes, the love of good food and cooking builds that will carry them through life.

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