Learning to gather, prepare and cook your own food is a basic survival skill that all parents naturally want to teach their children. However, in the modern age of convenience and fast food it can be hard to introduce cooking skills to children and even harder to get them involved in cooking at all.
Properly portioning, handling, chopping and cooking of ingredients are all essential skills for your children to survive outside of home. When your children eventually move out of home, you’ll want to know that they can prepare their own meals without injuring themselves or burning their unit down.
What’s more, if your kids don’t know how to cook then they’ll annoy you by constantly visiting when they can’t afford to eat out, expecting you to provide them with a home cooked meal. In order to avoid these inconvenient catastrophes, it’s essential that you teach your kids how to cook.
Once you work out what you want to cook (and HelloFresh have a useful strategy for deciding that), let’s take a look at a few great tips for getting your kids involved in the kitchen and hopefully encouraging them to gain more confidence and independence.
One of the best ways to motivate children to start cooking is to offer it as the only means for them to get their hands on a yummy treat. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cake or tray of cookies, as long as it’s a meal your children sincerely enjoy, you should go for a healthy option wherever you can.
If your kids don’t want to make anything healthy, don’t fret as getting them to start making something at all is the goal here. Once you coach them and prod their interest in the art of cooking they’ll naturally want to experiment themselves and this is where you can introduce them to new and healthy recipes.
Make meal prep easy
The main thing that turns off so many people about home cooking is the effort they need to put in to create something they’ll quickly devour. People don’t like to spend a long time waiting for a meal and it can be especially daunting to cook more elaborate dishes that require dozens of ingredients and steps.
This reasoning is doubled when talking about children as they’re even lazier and more distracted than most adults are. With that said, you need to make all the boring parts of cooking fun for your kids.
A good idea is to ask the kids what they want to make and pre-portion the ingredients for them ahead of time. Draw up a meal plan for them with simple to follow steps directing them to pour, stir and (if they’re old enough) chop ingredients. You also need to be careful to pick easy recipes on weeknights – after all, the kids are tired from school and you’ve spent the day at work.
Show them a restaurant kitchen
This method may sound a little strange at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. While it’s unlikely you’re expecting your children to learn anything directly from a busy commercial kitchen, they’ll get to see professional chefs in action and may develop an interest as a possible future life career.
Even if your kids don’t talk about becoming a chef when they grow up, taking them to a kitchen lets them see lots of adults working with food and gives them a greater appreciation for what you do for them at home.
The next time you take the family to a restaurant, ask one of the staff members if it would be okay for one or more of your children to see what the back of house is like. Very young children may be frightened by the hustle and bustle, so this method is for kids who are a little more mature.
Alternatively, you could go to a restaurant where customers cook at least some of the food. A Korean barbeque restaurant, for example, will allow you and your kids to cook the food just how you like it, and the novelty should get them interested.
Expose them to cooking shows
Another great way to motivate kids is with the power of celebrity and TV chefs offer plenty of great material to get your kids invested in cooking. Competitive cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules or Iron Chef are great examples of shows that make cooking exciting and almost sport-like.
Your kids may not be interested if you try to sit them down and force them to watch, so instead leave the program on in the background while doing other things and see if your kids gravitate towards it. Children gain and lose interest in things very quickly, so it’s best to slowly expose them to cooking in as many ways as you can without beating them over the head with it.
Lecture them on the importance of learning how to cook
When all else fails, use your parental authority to instruct your children that they need to learn some basic cooking skills. While your child will learn begrudgingly, they will still learn and thank you later in life when they use the skills you have drilled into them.
This article was featured in Issue 45 of our printed magazine, published April 2021.