Parents and teachers are always trying to find creative ways to teach the skills necessary for our children to succeed in daily life. Did you know that cooking with your child can improve their TAKS scores and provide a skill they can benefit from their entire life?
When you teach your child to cook, you are developing skills in reading and math. They learn how to follow directions, draw conclusions about how a recipe will turn out, sequence the steps as they follow a recipe, multiply and divide as they measure ingredients, manage their time as they work to complete the recipe, and many other skills.
Other benefits to teaching your children to cook include the bonding that occurs as you spend time with them, the nurturing memories you make as you cook together, passing along your family heritage through favorite family dishes, and developing a life skill that all adults should know.
Where to begin? Just remember a few simple tips.
First, teach kitchen safety. Reinforce rules about the use of knives, heat, clean-up and ingredients. Remind them that hand-washing skills are very important in the kitchen.
Second, start with the basics. Show them the different utensils and explain what they are used for.
Third, talk about ingredients and how they are used in dishes.
Fourth, as they grow older and more skilled, add lessons on nutrition, meal planning and budgeting, table setting and manners.
You can start cooking with your child when they are as young as 2 years of age. Two-year- olds are learning to use the large muscles in their arms. They will enjoy scrubbing veggies and fruits, breaking bread for stuffing, wiping the table, tearing lettuce and greens, and snapping fresh beans.
Three-year olds are learning to use their hands. Try cooking activities such as pouring liquids into a batter, shaking a milk drink, kneading bread dough, spooning out cookie dough, spreading peanut butter and tossing mixtures in a Zip-loc bag.
Four- and 5-year olds are learning to control the smaller muscles in their fingers. Offer them experiences such as rolling bananas in coatings, mashing soft fruits and vegetables, grinding cooked meat, juicing fruit, measuring dry and liquid ingredients, and beating eggs with a whisk.
Elementary students can learn to read a recipe. There are great kid's cookbooks with lots of recipes for basic meals they will have fun making. There are also many websites with recipes and ideas for family cooking. Cooking their own snacks is also great fun for a "chef"-themed birthday party.
When do you let them use knives and the stove? Each child will be different. A child must be tall enough to see into the pan before they can safely monitor cooking on a stove. Watch how they use scissors and writing tools to determine their time to begin knife skills. You can practice some knife skills with a plastic or table knife on soft items.
How do you get them interested? Find foods they love and want to know how to make. Buy them a great apron or hat of their very own to wear in the kitchen. Begin early in their life and they will value this time as they grow older. Keep the atmosphere relaxed. There won't be a test. Have your child plan the menu for a special event or party such as a birthday or holiday.
Don't undervalue your ability. You don't have to be a gourmet cook to teach your children. And you may learn some new skills along the way.
The recipes below are kid friendly and can be used together for a zoo- or circus-themed party.
1 small box raisins
2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
Grease 12 muffin tins. In a saucepan or the microwave, melt the butter. Add the sugar and water. Cut the biscuits in half and form 36 dough balls. Place three balls in each tin, drizzle with the sauce. Sprinkle with the pecans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 medium banana, chopped
3 strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup apple juice
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Chill.
Canned icing or cream cheese icing
Favorite fruit, peeled and cut into interesting shapes
Cut a square of aluminum foil big enough for the completed cookie pizza. Spray the foil with pan spray. Place on cookie sheet. Draw a circle 1 inch smaller that the desired size of the pizza. Spread the cookie dough into the circle. Bake as directed. Cool. Spread icing on the cookie. Garnish with the assorted fruit
Cooking with your children may seem a daunting task to begin with, but you will reap the rewards when you are surprised with a birthday cake from your teenage daughter or a son who shows up with dad's favorite casserole at Thanksgiving. And better yet, you'll love that call for grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe because your child wants to make them with their children.
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