kids cookingOne of the most important life skills you can teach a child is cooking! I have many wonderful memories of my mother in the kitchen when I was a young girl. She would spend a great deal of time in the kitchen every day, actually, as many of us parents do! The fact is that some people love to cook, while others cook more out of necessity. Many people are very unsure of themselves in the kitchen altogether. It is my belief that if you start teaching your children the basics of how a kitchen works at a young age, you may develop in them a skill that he or she can take into life forever, making life just a little easier, and you may learn a few cooking skills yourself!

One of the main challenges of a parent who wants to get a child interested in cooking deciding WHEN to start teaching. Kids certainly develop at different speeds, so every case is different. However, there are so many things that go on in a kitchen that a child can be taught age appropriate skills starting from about the age of three. Here are some ideas of what skills might be appropriate for different ages:

Ages 3-5:

· Stirring Ingredients

· Scooping with measuring cups and spoons

· Washing fruits and vegetables

· Getting proper tools from the cupboard

Ages 4-5:

· Opening packages

· Greasing pans

· Mashing potatoes

· Peeling hard-boiled eggs

· Pouring measured ingredients into bowls

Ages 5-6:

· Learning how to clean up the mess

· Learning measuring basics (1 cup, 1 1/2 cup, etc.)

· Set the table

· Spreading butter or peanut butter with a dull knife

Ages 7-8:

· Rolling or dropping cookies

· Meal planning

· Using a whisk or fork for beating

· Cracking eggs (always fun to teach…)

· Making sandwiches (grilled cheese, BLT, etc)

· Identifying different spices

Ages 9-11:

· Opening cans

· Turning on the oven and stove (with supervision)

· Making small, easy recipes

· Advanced meal planning

· Use the microwave

· Basic knife skills (with supervision)

Ages 12 and up:

· Advancing to more complicated recipes

· Learning differences in cookware (stainless steel vs. non-stick pans, etc.)

· Cooking independently

· Cleaning up the mess in the kitchen

· Using the dishwasher (if you have one)

Now you may have an idea that cooking with a child of any age can be a fun learning experience for both you and your child. If you still are a bit lost on where to begin, I would suggest a trip to the library to get a few kid-friendly cookbooks. Start out with simple recipes that your child will enjoy eating when you are done, too. What kid wants to make something that they don't want to eat? Once you know what you want to make, try to involve your child as much as possible in the planning of meals by going over shopping lists and ingredients so that they are a part of the process from the beginning to the end.

To sum up, cooking with kids can be a whole lot of fun and it's a great way to spend quality time together. Home-made food is almost always healthier than fast and greasy take-out, too! If you start small, and start at an early age, you may just find that you have a budding chef in your family!