15% percent of children today are overweight and one of the many major reasons is their easy access to unhealthy food and the preconceived ideas that cooking is hard. Obesity, diabetes and liver disease are some of the consequences of kids not being comfortable in the kitchen.
The new Web series “Jr. Chefs of America” paves the way for kids to not just help in the kitchen but also to lead the cooking process. The program features confident teenagers giving live cooking demonstrations of their own recipes, showing that cooking is fun and easy — and one avenue to help stop the junk food epidemic.
“Jr. Chefs” is both entertaining and educational for children — with delicious looking food and a catchy theme song.
My most recent personal experience of cooking with kids was with my girl scouts a few years ago on some simple tasks and the time with Amber a couple of summers ago. What readily comes to my mind though is my grandma teaching me way back when.
Grams would let me wear her apron which she so cleverly converted into a size that fit me pretty well. Then she would bring a kitchen chair over to the counter and let me climb up on it. She would let me help her do simple measurements or read her the recipe (that she already knew by heart, but wanted me to learn to understand) or stir pancake batter. When she taught me to measure it was EXACT, (though she didn’t herself and I grew into a by sight and feel cook myself). You used a table knife to level off the top of the measuring cup. She also taught me how to make the best cakes with double sifting. These days they say you don’t need to sift, but I feel I get a better texture and moister cake by still sifting.
No matter how old they are, kids want to help in the kitchen and we should be glad and always welcome their eagerness. Much of our life revolves around food and cooking in one way or another and boys as well as girls should learn at the very least, the basics. As Barbara pointed out, even finicky eaters become better eaters when they are a part of the process of making their own food.
You can include children of all ages in any food preparation. Just be aware of their capabilities and base their tasks on that. For example, every kid wants to wield the meat cleaver, but probably shouldn’t.
Start their tasks with simple ones like learning to measure correctly, snapping beans, washing vegetables, measuring rice, when to add the different ingredients and even simple things like cracking an egg which can certainly be messy, but every kid wants to do it! Grandma taught me to crack eggs into a separate bowl instead of directly into a recipe which turned out to be a very valuable lesson. You can always pick out egg shells if the only thing in the bowl is a single egg, but you don’t want to be doing it from a bowl with all your cookie makings in it. There was a point when I was using farm fresh eggs and let’s just say I was certainly glad I still used that separate bowl for eggs or my whole cookie batch would have needed to be tossed out. Kids can roll dough or meat into cookies or meatballs. They can use a fork to criss cross the tops of peanut butter cookies. Teaching them to clean up as they go will also be a benefit in so much of their life! If all goes well, this will also bleed over into cleaning up their toys and/or rooms.
As for that meat cleaver task at hand, you can take turns so that their tasks don’t involve the sharp implements, but yours do. Most importantly make it fun for you and them. The more fun they have, the more likely they are to want to learn more and more.