By Sandra Jensen
It's amazing to watch people "come back to" some tradition or art that has been rather lost for a few decades. Have you noticed the food networks touting cooking with children? As if this is a new thing! Since America was founded, boys worked outside with their fathers while girls worked alongside their mothers, learning to garden and cook. A steady decline of women staying home and cooking has been felt since the 1960's. In my opinion, families lose out all the way around.
Children love to experiment in the kitchen! And how else do we teach the next generation to feed themselves and their families if we don't let them spend time in the kitchen with us? How many women do you know who purposefully teach their sons and daughters to cook?
Home school parents have known for a long time the benefits of cooking "lessons" in the kitchen. There's math involved in cooking and baking from the shopping to the serving, including calculations, fractions, decimals finances and budgeting.
Whatever ages your children are, it's never too late or too early to teach them their way around the kitchen. The youngest ones love to put on an apron and "help" Mommy. They can help stir, and mix stuff with their hands. They can learn the importance of good hand washing in the kitchen. From kindergarten up, you can teach them how to follow a recipe. They can help with meal planning and clean up. You can teach them the proper way to set a table. As they get older you can teach them how to make a menu for the week, and shop bargains. A great math lesson is teaching them how to calculate the price per ounce to compare prices. Showing them how to make healthy choices at the grocery store will cut down on their "begging" for junk food at home.
According to their ages, children can cook and bake with your supervision. Cake and brownie mixes go together easily and the rewards are quickly seen (and eaten!) Teach them to toss a fresh salad, and to make a pretty fruit platter. Finger Jell-O is always a hit. Eggs, oatmeal, sandwiches, wraps, pancakes, French toast are always fun. One of my boys always wanted to mix the meatloaf with his bare hands, which led to teaching him to make burger patties and meatballs too! Expand their repertoire as you go along.
As you conquer reading a recipe and using measuring spoons and cups, you (and they) can tackle anything! Let them help you brainstorm the menu for the week. Then let them "own" a meal (or part of a meal) weekly. Their confidence in themselves and their love for the kitchen will bloom and grow.
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