Wouldn't it be great if you could sit back while your kids cooked the Thanksgiving dinner for you? Well, why not? Thanksgiving is a great time to create a new tradition and also spark interest in learning to cook.
Studies have shown that kids who help cook are more likely to try new foods --usually healthier ones. Letting children be in control of part of the meal, even by allowing them to choose whether you eat carrots or peas for dinner, can help reduce the anxiety of eating a new food or one that may not look great but tastes all right.
Like anything new, be prepared for lots of spills but the good news is the more they do it the better they get. If you teach them about healthy food and how fun it is to create recipes they will grow up knowing that food tastes better at home as opposed to eating out. It is a very good way to cut down on obesity.
First things first -- make sure they wash their hands, since as far as we know mud isn't an ingredient anyone is really fond of eating.
Safety is important as the stove is hot and liquids can be hit and spilled. Turn all pot and pan handles toward the back of the stove to help prevent a child's arm or head from knocking it over.
Oven mitts are a kitchen essential. A handle might not feel very hot to you but can burn a small child.
Make sure you walk through how to use kitchen appliances like a blender or can opener and be sure to supervise younger children.
This is also a wonderful opportunity to increase your kids' vocabulary. Teach them what words like sear or sauté mean.
Clean-up is just as important as prep time and they need to know how to be sanitary. Teach them that cleaning is just as important as measuring how much flour to use in a cake.
Having their own tools also helps give kids a sense of ownership and independence. Some suggestions:
- A set of measuring cups and spoons (good for math skills);
- Mixing bowls that are slip-proof and easy to pour;
- Growingcooks.com has mini-utensils for little hands;
- Curiouschef.com has a whole assortment including kid-friendly knives; and
- Forsmallhands.com has chef hats and an apron.
Keep the atmosphere fun and engaging. If you are tense or worried they will pick up on it. Going from start to finish gives them a sense of accomplishment. This can be a fabulous self esteem builder as they are creating something and finishing it. Remember we want them to do this on their own someday.