Summer is an amazing time to get the kids in the kitchen and get cooking. Kids are out of school, always hungry and most likely telling you they are bored! Today I am sharing all my tips on how to easily get your kids in the kitchen.
Many people think that only older kids can cook. But that can’t be farther from the truth. I include my kids in the kitchen from when they are babies. Every kid at any age can be involved in the cooking process. Cooking is an essential life skill and just like riding a bike or potty training it takes practice and patience.
Let’s dive into some fun ways to get kids in the kitchen and what to teach. I have listed out some of the skills your child can practice in the Summer Checklist below. You can print one of these out every week and have your child check the items off as they practice them.
The first section on the Summer checklist focuses on knife skills. Some of the most common questions I get are how to teach kids knife skills, what knives to use and when to introduce knives to kids.
Today I want to show you specifically what the claw and saw and rocking the boat methods. These are the two basic knife techniques every kid should learn.
Safety Tip: Whenever using knives you always want to start with a steady work surface. Place a wet paper towel under your cutting board to secure the board. I only use plastic or wooden cutting boards such as these. Glass is not a steady surface and can cause major knife slippage. It is also really bad for knife upkeep and is not recommended. You also want to cut off a little slice of any object that is a sphere. Place the cut side down to create a steady platform to minimize slippage.
Your child will learn these two techniques first and then move onto other, more advanced knife skills.
I teach the claw and saw technique first. Have your child hold their knife in their right hand (if right handed) and forming a claw with their left hand. They will hold the food item (start with something soft like play dough for very young children) with their claw and then move the knife back and forth in a sawing motion.
Claw and Saw
The next knife skill they learn is called “rocking the boat”. Rocking the boat is a method I teach kids when they are chopping things like herbs, garlic or for when they want to mince something very small. They will simply hold their knife in their right hand (if right handed) and place their left hand on top of the knife with a “pancake hand”. They will then rock the knife up and down (with the knife always staying on the cutting board) and cut through the item.
Rocking The Boat
After your children feel comfortable with the claw and saw and rocking the boat you can focus on action items. These include things like measuring, mixing, rinsing and whisking. Children 2 and older can do all these action items with your guidance.
Items like peeling, grating and squeezing are best when children are 5 years and older, although my four year old can do all these things with my supervision. Always use your discretion to see if your child is ready for these action steps.
Next up are more advanced techniques like sautéing, baking and cooking for friends and family on their own (keep in mind you may still need to supervise). This gives children 8 and up a great sense of responsibility and can really expand their culinary skill set.
I really love the last item which is the Iron Chef Challenge. Younger kids can be involved in this as well. The challenge gets kids involved in the kitchen in a fun and challenging way, where they can really foster their creativity and autonomy in the kitchen. I DO NOT interfere with their ideas for flavor combinations or measurements in this challenge. The point of the challenge is for them to learn and be creative. Learning by mistakes is how chefs are born.
Iron Chef Challenge: Here is what I do to keep it simple and cost effective.
I like to start by picking a category of food. For example “breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert”. Then I pick my secret ingredient. This can literally be anything you want. From there I look in my fridge and pantry and take out all the stuff that can go with the category and secret ingredient. For example if I chose dessert as my category and strawberries as my secret ingredient I would pick things like cake mixes, brownie mixes, chocolate chips, candies, fruit, cream, cereal etc. I place these items on a table and then the secret ingredient on another table. I cover the secret ingredient with a towel so the kids can’t see what it is which makes for a fun surprise.
I then instruct the kids that they have 1 hour to make a unique dessert using the secret ingredient. You can do a fun reveal of the secret ingredient and then they get cooking! I like to have them teamed up in groups if there are more than 4 kids doing the challenge. They can brainstorm what they want to make and then start being creative!
When I recently did this challenge we had groups make strawberry ice cream, cookie nachos and a strawberry cake. They had a blast and they all made something that they were proud of and could eat. They also learned some really important culinary lessons such as letting cakes cool before frosting them, using rock salt lowers the temperature of ice to help make ice cream freeze and that chocolate and strawberries are great together! I let them make some errors and then told them at the end the tips and new methods they could use to solve them. This is how we learn in the kitchen. Even as a chef, I am constantly learning from my kitchen mistakes.
I hope you try these techniques out and get your kids in the kitchen. Here are some of the amazing benefits of cooking with your kids.
Benefits of Cooking with Kids: There are so many benefits cooking with kids. Here are some of the major benefits you will see if you get your kids in the kitchen with you.
It’s a great way to bond and connect with your child: Some of my favorite memories as a child is cooking in the kitchen with my mom. I forever cherish those memories and I am grateful that she taught me how to cook and be self-sufficient.
Engages all 5 senses: All of your senses are stimulated when you are cooking. You touch the food and experience different textures and temperatures, you smell different smells throughout the whole process, you hear the sounds of cooking like sizzling, boiling, and crunching, you see your masterpiece coming together with all the beautiful colors of the rainbow and you finally get to taste your creation that engages your tastebuds. It’s a full body sensory experience!
Teaches math, science and reading skills: Cooking is a great way to teach simple fractions, scientific reactions and reading. Have your child read a recipe to you and follow the steps. Create a science experiment by baking your favorite batch of cookies or homemade bread. Have your child half a recipe and learn fractions. The possibilities are endless.
Can reduce picky eating: If you have a picky eater this is my number one tip to get them exposed to different foods. Getting your child involved in a happy kitchen can instill in them a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. If they are proud of what they make, chances are they will try it. You are also exposing them to different tastes, textures and smells while cooking. The more exposure the better the eater.
Helps develop fine motor skills: Stirring thick cookie dough, pouring a cup of oil, using a knife, squeezing a lemon….. all of these simple tasks help develop fine motor skills.
Gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment: The most important thing cooking teaches is the sense of self-sustainability and accomplishment. When your child can cook for themselves they can one day provide that for their own families. What a blessing that can be! Cooking is an essential life skill that everyone needs to learn (no matter what age you are).
Builds social and listening skills: Cooking together with family or friends can be one of the most enjoyable social experience. So many times when I am teaching a kids cooking class the students come into class timid and shy and by the end of it they are laughing, talking to one another and having fun. It can bring out the best in everyone. Listening to directions can make or break your recipe so letting them fail once in a while (if they aren’t listening) can be a great teaching moment.
Can be used as a therapeutic activity for many disabilities: Cooking can truly be a form of therapy. Because it involves all 5 senses it is great for those with disabilities. It’s being used as part of the treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD and addiction.
It’s an essential life skill for a healthy lifestyle: Teaching children where food comes from, how it is prepared and what will help them feel their best creates a healthy relationship with food and a healthy lifestyle.
I hope you get your kiddos in the kitchen this Summer and try some of these tips. Happy Cooking Everyone!