Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cooking with Children

Photo by Magna Vita Photography

I am very passionate about children learning about food, and how to cook and bake. I started cooking and baking with my oldest daughter when she was only 18 months old- old enough to stand on a chair at the kitchen counter and follow along. Now, she is quite a good little baker and she loves being in the kitchen with me.

I first started bringing her into the kitchen because we don't do TV with our kids, so it was my way of keeping her entertained while I prepared food. Before long, she was right in there with me, mixing, adding ingredients, counting, reading the recipes. We would talk about colors, where food comes from, how it is grown, food safety, and endless other topics that were really exceptional learning opportunities. Toddlers have an amazing capacity for curiousity and her questions were often challenging to answer. We developed our favorite recipes to make and I often involved her in making her own food. Which is probably why she loves spinach salad, couscous, and other things not typically on the toddler menu.

It is hard work cooking and baking with children. Safety comes first of course, and so you need to be constantly anticipating possible accidents, developing a vocabulary of teaching about safety rather than yelling "stop" or "don't touch that". We had a few slips and falls, and I would never allow her close to the hot stove or sharp knives. But I do think all this safety training has well prepared her to have common sense in kitchen (I hope that her future Home Ec teacher notices:)

It also takes patience to have a toddler in the kitchen. If your kids are older then you will likely have an easier time. Whatever age they are at, I encourage you to do this for many reasons: a respect for food, all that it takes to grow and produce it; a respect for the hard work that you put into cooking for your family; common sense in the kitchen; basic food knowledge and an understanding of how to prepare food; an appreciation for what we eat. I think a healthy relationship with food starts with food knowledge. The best time to teach them is while you are doing it (where do eggs come from?).

When my daughter ate the first pizza that she made entirely from scratch (start to finish, dough and all) she devoured it. She wanted to share it with her sister and she was so proud of her beautiful pizza (topped with spinach, onions, and cheese). It was a proud mom moment for me and an amazing reminder that having patience and spending the time in the kitchen with her are totally worth it. Because not only did she love her pizza, we shared a memorable family moment.

*the photo above is from her birthday party last year- she is enjoying the cupcakes we made together for the party*