Many of us adults cringe at the thought of children in the kitchen. There are sharp knives, slippery surfaces, as well as inevitable spills and cleanup. With all of that, cooking can be a wonderful way to engage multiple senses, as well as be a fun, creative way for families to spend time together.
It can teach math skills, decision making, sequencing and problem solving (no, you can't substitute baking powder for baking soda). Having children be involved in the decision of what to make can encourage an otherwise picky eater to try new or less familiar foods. Plus, you get to eat what you create.
- Even young children can be involved in an age appropriate way. Have children measure spices and add them at the right time. They can stir the pot with a cooking spoon. use a spoon to put cookie dough onto a baking sheet.
- Older children can be shown how to cut vegetables, when to add them to a soup or other main dish, and how to season.
- Baking is an easy way to get children involved, particularly with cookies or quick breads such as pumpkin, banana or zucchini bread. I add chocolate chips to the last three, yum.
- Making soup is an easy way to learn to cook. Have children find a simple recipe for tomato or chicken soup, beef stew or gazpacho and dig in. Soup is also very forgiving, and you can add or subtract to your family's taste.
- When your kids express the desire to make something more complex, go for it. If it winds up not tasting the way it should, you can problem solve around how to modify (or chuck it and order pizza - either way works!).
- If your child enjoys cooking, involve them in choosing the ingredients as well. Local farmers' markets are great resources, and fun to attend.
Pumpkins, apples, persimmons, pears, spices and great smells are all part of the season, and a great way to welcome autumn.