Last year, I shared ways to entertain tweens on Thanksgiving and one of the ways was to involve them in the kitchen. There were simple ideas like having them mash potatoes, top the sweet potato casserole and mix pie filling. This year, I want to take it a step further. Let’s bring our tweens into the kitchen to help with food prep. My tween Maddy has helped me cook on many an occasion. There have been lots of pitfalls and clean up time is usually doubled but the experience is extremely rewarding for both of us.
Some simple ways tweens can be involved in the kitchen and the dangers you’ll need to watch out for:
Reading off the recipe to you.
Put the tween reading skills to the test and let them read the ingredients and procedures to you. This is a great way to get children to understand how to read a recipe and follow simple instructions. Word to the wise: read over the recipe first so you have an idea of what is going on. When the tween accidentally tells you to put 2 tablespoons of baking soda instead of 2 teaspoons you’ll regret not having done so!
Measure and pour.
Let your tween measure and pour. Children learn measurements and have the opportunity to interact with the ingredients. But be sure to oversee the process. Cleaning up cooking oil off the floor isn’t an easy task and trying to take the bird out of the oven when your feet are slipping and sliding makes for a huge disaster….take my word for it.
Stirring and sautéing.
Yes, the idea of putting your children in front of a hot stove goes against everything you have been teaching them since birth. BUT, at some point in their lives they are going to need to know how to cook even if it is something as simple as scrambled eggs. So, start them out slowly. Let them stir and sauté as you keep a close watch. You will need to teach them the basics like stirring slowly to avoid spilling, how not to burn themselves and that the pot handle should always face away from the edge of the stove. Even if you only allow your child to “cook” food for a little while it will help them understand to not be afraid of the stove and learn safety procedures.
Does the thought of putting a sharp object in the hands of your tween send shivers down your spine? Yeah, mine too but they can’t use the butter knife they’ve been using to cut their chicken isn’t going to cut it (literally!). Let your tween chop soft vegetables like taking the tops off of strawberries. Remember to teach your child how to hold the knife properly and keep those fingers hidden!
You can’t even get the kids to clean up their rooms so how are you going to convince them they need to clean the kitchen? My tween may not enjoy wiping down the counter tops or cleaning the oven but she definitely will help me toss the scraps into the compost bin. And she loves wiping down the refrigerator. Find “fun” ways the tweens can help clean up and encourage them to take on the responsibility.
Finally, remember not to stress. Sharing kitchen time with your tween should be fun. If you don’t feel your child is ready to take on a skill, don’t push it. Teaching tweens to cook is important especially since 20 years form now you’ll be wanting to sit down and relax in front of the TV while they worry about cooking that turkey!