My four year old loves to cook. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if I left out a cookbook with picture instructions, he could successfully bake a batch of cookies without me. Cooking has always been a big part of my life, and it’s a skill that I feel is important to pass down to my sons. The world of “kids cooking” supplies is more than a little girl-oriented (remember this story about the girl who petitioned for gender-neutral Easy Bake Ovens?), but I hold firm to my belief that boys have just as much a right as girls to know their way around the kitchen! Whenever possible, we cook things from scratch, even if that means cooking way ahead of time and freezing things. Someday, I want my sons to be capable adults who can cook a decent, healthy meal for themselves and not end up like one of those awful stereotypes in a “Hungry-Man” commercial:
Teaching kids to be comfortable in the kitchen is like saving for college in many ways: Start early, start small, keep it up, and reap the rewards later on.
Nate started cooking with me when he was about 2 years old. In fact, here’s the first time he ever helped in the kitchen!
He began by being my mixer. In fact, we pretended he had a switch on his elbow and would set our “mixer” to slow, medium, or fast. Sometimes, he would dump in spices or small amounts of ingredients for me, but it was really hit or miss at this age. However, we stuck with it and kept him busy in the kitchen whenever possible, cooking with him at least once a week.
Then, he turned 3, and suddenly was really able to “help” more. Since he’d been watching the process for a good year now, he knew the basics, and quickly learned how to crack eggs and dump in pre-measured ingredients without causing total chaos.
By the time he turned 4, he was a pretty proficient chef. He could easily top a pizza if I set out the ingredients and the pre-baked crust, he could take out the ingredients to bake cookies, and he could make muffins form start to finish if I pre-measured the ingredients. Now, at 4 and a half, he’s starting to really get into the math side of cooking, and loves to try and measure things for me (with more success than I would have thought possible!).
Seeing the skills that he has mastered by the young age of 4 simply from being allowed and encouraged to help in the kitchen has proven to me the importance of involving my sons with cooking projects as often as possible. Not only are they benefiting from the math and science skills that are such a big part of cooking, but they’re learning to follow directions, be self-sufficient and make their own food- all important life skills!
Here are our favorite cooking projects. We tend to make more snacks and dessert foods together simply because dinner time is pretty hectic. Do your children like to cook? What are some favorites in your house?
- Banana Bread (a favorite, as every kid loves to mash!)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Scones and Muffins (both are good ways to use up odds and ends as “mix-ins”)
- Fresh Fruit Pies
- Baked Apples and Baked Pears
- Homemade Pizza
- Peanut Butter Cookies (making the “train tracks” with a fork is a big hit- you could probably use any nut butter or sunflower butter in most recipes)
- Roll-Out Sugar Cookies (These are fun twice- once to make the dough, roll it and cut out shapes, and the next day to decorate them! We use the Martha Stewart recipe for the cookies and icing.)
- Birthday Cakes (There’s never time on the weekends to bake a homemade cake from start to finish, so we bake the cakes one weekend, freeze them in plastic wrap, and make the frosting and assemble the following weekend.)
- Mashed potatoes (a big hit)