Maybe you do not have kids, but do not think that gets you off the hook. Cooking with kids can be a blast, but needs to be well supervised. It is a great way to fill in time when babysitting or just hanging out with family. The other week I made home made Italian sauce with my 12 year old niece using a family recipe. I had no idea she had such an interest in cooking! Here are a few things I did which helped the experience:
Let them be center stage. This means letting them do as much as they are able to do. I find this allowed her to be involved and not just standing around watching me do everything. That’s just boring and does not make cooking fun!
Choose a family tradition recipe. I chose Italian sauce because we are Italian. It was also an easy recipe which I knew my niece could handle. Cooking a cultural family dish instills a sense of belonging and importance to the child. Adding that small bit of heritage gives the recipe greater importance and meaning.
Give them the credit. How can you not?! Giving my niece the credit gave her a sense of accomplishment and something to be proud of. The next time she came over she brought a friend and wanted to teach her friend how to make sauce!
Teach safe and proper cutting techniques. I know from experience many “do not’s” when it comes to cutting veggies such as onions. So I made sure to explain clearly the things I have learned over time. This way it does not come across bossy but from a softer tone of experience. I’m human too!
Make sure your kids are comfortable. If there was anything my niece was doing which looked as if she was struggling or awkward I simply asked if everything was ok and did she want any help. Often times people do not volunteer they need help, but when asked directly, they are more than willing to admit it.
Work side by side. If we were cutting onions, I stood next to her cutting one while she cut the other. This way, she could look over and watch how I was doing things, and I could easily keep my eye on her making sure she was holding the knife properly, etc.
Take your time, enjoy the day, but don’t get boring. This is a hard balance. When making sauce it’s a lot of waiting while it simmers. Sometimes I let it sit overnight to really cook all the flavors, but I did not with her. Once the sauce was on its way, I didn’t expect her to sit around while it simmered. So I summed up the rest by saying I’d make sure it gets the occasional stir and put it in containers for her.
It’s their dish, no matter how much you helped. To this day in my mind, she made the sauce not me. I put the sauce in dinner size containers and froze them so she could take them home the next day. If you make the sauce in the morning you can then have pasta for dinner and enjoy the work of your hands the same day!
Working with kids is a great experience. In fact, one of my early memories of visiting my Aunt Gloria at the age of 8 or so was when she made chocolate Easter Bunnies and we got to help her. I remember the excitement and how fun it was. That’s all I remember from the whole trip!
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert in the kitchen, I’m sure not! A simple Italian sauce is a great recipe to use if wanting to do an impressive easy job. So you will be just fine if you’re a little new when it comes to cooking with kids. This was my first time and I recommend cooking with kids to anyone!