Confession: When I got married my cooking skills were very limited. How limited? I had a handle on macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, scrambled eggs, ramen noodles and making a grilled cheese with an iron. Once, I even ruined a BOX of brownies!
Throughout the years, my skills have drastically improved. I'm pretty good in the kitchen now, if I do say so myself. Since I waited until I became an adult to acquire any kitchen skills, I wanted to make sure that didn't happen with my own children. My 14 year old daughter is very accomplished in the kitchen. She cooks all the time! My two boys are not as interested, but it's still important for them to learn the basics.
There are 8 basic kitchen skills that your kids should know:
In my opinion, these are the most important rules for safety in the kitchen:
Washing hands Wash hands before you start! Your kids should also know after touching things that are not food (hair, eyes, face, surfaces), they need to wash their hands again during the food preparation process.
"Hot glass looks like cold glass!" Always teach your children to touch glass pans with a pot holder when they are cooking.
Cross-contamination Great lesson plan on teaching this subject.
Pot handles on a stove are always pointed in!
Say "Behind you!" or "Coming through-Hot!" when moving around other people in the kitchen.
One of the first skills you should teach is measuring. How to use a measuring cup and spoon are great ways to incorporate younger children into food preparation.
3. Following a recipe
Following a recipe is often overlooked. It's a great skill where the benefits extend to other areas of learning. I ruined that box of brownies because I didn't follow the directions. Always start with simple recipes and move to more complicated ones as your child's skills improve. There is nothing you cannot accomplish in the kitchen, if you can read and follow a recipe!
Oh my! This can be a really messy skill to teach!
This is what I tell my kids:
1. When you are first learning, always crack your eggs one at a time into a different bowl. (That way if things go crazy, you can start from scratch.)
2. Tap the center of the egg on the counter.
3. Put your thumbs on either side of the cracked part.
4. Without pushing your thumbs in, grip the egg and pull apart....over a bowl!
I love this pictorial tutorial of: How to crack an egg
5. Cutting/Knife Skills
When to teach cutting skills depends upon the child. I've seen it suggested that the child be at LEAST 5 years old. I personally would never give my 5 year old a chef's knife. At that age, we practice with a butter knife and when ready move onto a steak knife. My 14 year old is very capable with a chef's knife. (Her dad taught her!)
I love this infographic!
Teaching various cutting terminology is also important. Kitchen 101: Cutting
6. Using Kitchen Tools
Start off gradually and build up to the point where your child can use all your kitchen tools and appliances without injury. Each child is different, so I won't add ages to these groupings. Start with : measuring cups, roller pin, potato masher, garlic press. Move to: whisk, microwave, graters, can openers, stove top Finally: oven, special appliances, food processor, griddle, chef knives
7. Simple Food Preparation
My goal by the time my children leave our home is that they will be able to prepare simple meals for themselves and others. They should be able to prepare easy and nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes. Let your child pick their own recipes!
8. Cleaning up
Last, but certainly not least! Never let your children think they can come in the kitchen, make a big mess cooking and leave it for someone else to clean up. One day you won't be around to clean up after their food preparation and they need to learn that skill. This includes: putting back ingredients after use, wiping down counters, washing pots and pans and/or loading the dish washer, and cleaning up any other messes.
If you are looking for age-appropriate skills, Thirty Handmade Days has a great resource with skills listed by age level.
If you want your kids to have great kitchen skills, I'll leave you with two pieces of advice:
Practice often! Give lots of opportunities for practice. Forget about the messes and perfect products.
Oh, and don't forget to HAVE FUN!!!!