Has summer boredom kicked in for your kids yet?
If you have kids - or grandkids - at home this summer, or know someone who does, you know the challenge of keeping them busy and keeping their minds productive!
After they do their household chores and clean up their rooms - and, of course, lots of summer playtime and swimming - what about giving them summer cooking classes and enlisting their help in the kitchen?!
Sadly, cooking is becoming a "dying art" in our country, but it truly is a life skill, so don’t we have a responsibility to provide this skill to our children?! If we don't, the only thing they will know is how to order food from a restaurant or use the microwave or oven to heat up processed foods…neither of which will help them to be healthy and to thrive!
Why is it important?
- Learning to cook will help kids appreciate REAL ingredients and how to prepare meals using these ingredients (vs. ordering takeout or throwing a frozen meal in the microwave or oven).
- Kids can learn the value of planning and develop their thinking skills.
- Great way to keep those math skills fresh during the summer.
- Kids will build confidence in the kitchen.
- Excellent way for kids to appreciate what it takes to get a meal on the table.
- Seeing and enjoying the finished product provides a great sense of accomplishment.
- Kids will appreciate the importance of preparing and eating a meal together as a family.
- And, probably the best reason? Kids are much more likely to eat foods they choose and help cook!
It's worth it!
We know what you're thinking...this may create more work for you. And, yes, we all need to make peace with the fact it has the potential to get messy. Actually, go ahead and brace yourself...it IS going to get messy! Which is all the more reason to teach them “cleaning up” skills too!
It may take more time initially, but your kids (and you too) will be so incredibly grateful later -- you are teaching them skills and creating memories that will last a lifetime! And, you don't have to do this every day! Start by picking one day a week to be "kids cooking day" -- you will be shocked how quickly they learn!
Where to start?
Anytime is a great time to start -- the goal is for kids to be able to follow a recipe and prepare simple meals themselves by the time they reach high school. Have patience and don't get discouraged...it is a marathon, not a sprint! The reality is kids can get in the kitchen at a very young age! Here are some ideas based on age:
Involve them in meal planning! This will help "spark" their interest and get them excited to prepare - and enjoy - the meals they help select. (Tip: do this when feeling a bit hungry, rather than right after eating. It is amazing how much more mental interest and focus there is when feeling a little hungry versus full!)
Give them access to the Eat REAL America website and ask them to write down 5 or 10 meals they would like to prepare or enjoy (or simply add them to your recipe box). If you want to help narrow it down, you could pick an ingredient and use the search bar to get a selection of recipes using that ingredient.
For a truly great experience, take a field trip to the local farmers' market or farm stand and let them pick a food they want to try, then let them pick a recipe from the website using that ingredient - a fantastic learning opportunity! One our our Eat REAL America moms has shared, "I take my kids grocery shopping with me every week. Each time they get to pick out a newish fruit or veggie they want to try. Then, they know how to search the website for recipes -- it's 'our family thing' to do!"
Under the age of 2:
Let them watch you in the kitchen! Let them be your audience while you make meals -- of course, a plastic bowl and wooden spoon to bang around will help keep them entertained too!
2-3 years old:
- Rinse fruits and vegetables
- Dump ingredients into a bowl
- Pick leaves off the stems of fresh herbs or greens
- Brush oil on vegetables or fish
- Stir batter or ingredients in a bowl
4-5 year olds:
- Crack an egg
- Peel a hard-boiled egg
- Cut soft foods with plastic knife or table knife
- Make a simple homemade salad dressing (such as a simple balsamic vinaigrette)
- “Massage the kale” - see our coaching tip!
- Measure dry ingredients - they could even make a batch of the "GO-TO" seasoning!
- Add ingredients to a slow cooker
- Spoon batter into muffin cups
6-10 year olds: keep in mind, kids are all different, so use your judgment when your child is ready for more involved cooking skills such as using the stove, sharp knives or the food processor:
- Use small knives (like a paring knife)
- Peel and chop (even spiralize!) fruits and vegetables
- Sauté foods on the stove
- Grate cheese
- Form patties
- Roast vegetables in the oven
- Use a can opener or garlic press or microplane zester
- Use the blender or food processor (maybe with a little oversight)
- Boil water and cook pasta or other grains
- Prepare simple meals like grilled cheese, wraps, pancakes or salads
A few more tips for success:
- Make sure to have all the ingredients ready to go. Doing a little prep work will help make the cooking process go more smoothly.
- Pick your "kids cooking day" when you are not pressed for time...you want this to be enjoyable and stress-free!
- It is important to teach them food and cooking safety rules such as washing your hands after touching raw meat or how to use caution with the stove and oven. Remember to be patient and include words of encouragement!
- Delegate! Even if they don’t do it exactly like you would, let them have ownership and provide guidance and tips along the way.
- Failure is ok! This is how we all learn. Just make sure the failures aren’t catastrophic (no fires or explosions) and use them as learning opportunities.
If you happen to have our Eat REAL Cookbook, check out page 38 for three inspiring success stories of "kids in the kitchen!"
Summer Cooking Class Ideas:
- Homemade Nice Cream (they can get as creative as they want to)
- Smoothies (they will quickly learn the smoothie formula and become "smoothie masters." Excellent for breakfast, snacks, or evening sweet treats -- great nutritious replacement for ice cream!
- Make your own popsicles (fun for kids - and adults - of all ages!)
- Pancakes using REAL ingredients (who doesn't love pancakes?!)
- All about pizza (you can even use veggies for the crust!)
- It's Melon Season! (challenge the kids to pick out the perfect sweet and delicious melon)
- Homemade granola (a great way help them maintain their math and measuring skills!)
- All about salsa (there are so many ways - Simple Salsa Fresca, Easy Pineapple Salsa and Strawberry Avocado Salsa, just to name a few!)
- Burgers that don't arrive through your car window
- Create a visual masterpiece with a Charcuterie Board or a Buddha Bowl!
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (chocolate and peanut butter is the perfect combination!)
- Mix it up! Safely using a food processor or blender (the Cabbage Apple Pear Salad and the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread are a couple of perfect options!)
- Air-popped popcorn (because there is much more than popcorn going on in those microwave bags)
- Oatmeal Cookie Parfait Cups (another fun way to customize this healthy sweet treat)
- Cookies for breakfast? Kids love the Chunky Monkey Breakfast Cookies and the Chocolate Bliss Breakfast Cookies!
- Spring rolls 101 (let them experiment with different ingredient combinations)
- Mug O' Eggs! (at a young age, they can learn to make their own breakfast and the mug of eggs is the perfect idea to let them find their own favorite flavor combination!)
Get started and get the kids in the kitchen!
It's a priceless and valuable way to spend quality time together…plus, they are learning skills and creating memories they will cherish as they grow older. Plus, this may be the best way to get those picky eaters to try new things!
We can’t wait to hear your great stories about your kids in the kitchen!
Remember to take photos!