From now through September 21st, The Mom 100 Cookbook cookbook author Katie Workman will share her tips and recipes in a weekly guest blog post that will help you put dinner on the table with minimal effort. Plus, we're offering the chance to win free groceries and a private cooking class for you and four friends with Katie herself. Click here to enter, and check back every week to read more from Katie.
When Are Kids Old Enough to Start Helping Out in the Kitchen?
By: Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook
This is an oft-asked question, one I’ve heard quite a few times since the publication of The Mom 100 Cookbook. And it’s a good one. The short answer is a somewhat frustrating “it depends.” Which is the truth. But here are some things to think about, as you think about the best answer for your particular kids.
The earlier you can start, the better. I have an intensely strong memory of Jack when he was 1 ½ years old, sitting on the counter (safely, right in front of me), throwing raisins into a noodle kugel with his pudgy little fist. Getting your child to feel comfortable and at home in the kitchen is one of the single most important things in creating an interest in cooking. Even really young kids can watch you cook, transfer pasta shells for from one cup to another, play with the spoons and pots and pans on the floor.
While there are absolutely no set age parameters for when a kid is ready for any given task (and only you know what your kid is ready for), here are some thoughts
. All of them require supervision until you are completely comfortable that your kid knows what he is doing. And talk about everything you’re doing as you’re doing it – what happens to the consistency of butter or cream when you beat it, what happens to the outside of meat when you sear it, what the purpose of adding salt to a recipe is – everything is new to them, so it’s all interesting!
Encourage experimentation. Be prepared for some flops, but letting your kid start to choose their own sandwich fillings, pour some juices together to see how they will taste, or adjust the seasonings in the tacos
will teach them so much more than always following a recipe to the letter. And you may end up with some new house specialties.
Be prepared for a mess. The first time they crack an egg, it will not all land in the bowl; this is a truth of the universe. There will be more clean up than when you cook alone, things will take more time. You are all paying it forward, because only by tipping over the bag of flour a couple of times will they figure out how to keep the flour away from their elbow. It’s part of the process. Breathe deeply.
5. Have them help clean up. Without making it a deterrent, kids should know that cleaning up after any activity is part of the deal. Cleaning as you go is a good life skill (one that I could internalize a bit more), and, boy, the earlier the better on that one, right?