Written by Rob Campbell Growing up with a mom who loves to cook (and is damn good at it), it provided me with the initial taste of a skill that I would spend years honing in on. After high school, the first career I had was a professional chef. I spent a year at SAIT taking the course and five years more, furthering my skill and apprenticeship at private clubs and high-end restaurants in the city. And, although I no longer earn my living off of being a professional chef, it's a life-long skill I appreciate having and something I look forward to cooking with my kids as my mom did for me.
There is something to the statement about the kitchen being the centre of the home. It's the place where we come together to gather, whether it's a quick bowl of cereal in the morning or a holiday feast with family & friends. Sitting around the table, sharing stories, laughs, and a meal creates some of the best memories during your life-time. And, there's no better feeling of playing a part in creating that feeling through providing a delicious meal.
Now, with all our extra time at home and a lot less eating out or Skip The Dishes orders, we might be finding it difficult to please our kids with the food we put in front of them. And, with 10 hours of schoolwork a week on our kid's plates, it's the perfect time to get them into the kitchen and involved with the preparation, cooking & presentation of a meal along with the cleaning that comes from all the dirty work going into filling your family's bellies. Not only will it help teach them a skill that will stick with them, but it will also pull them away from the screens they are attached to and into a space where you give you a chance to bond with one or all of your kids.
Here are some ideas on getting your kids involved in the kitchen now and beyond this time of self-isolation.
Creating a Plan with your Kids
Sit down with your kids a day before to plan out the meal. Ask them for their input on what they would like to make. You can gently nudge them with ideas of things you know they love to eat themselves or based on the items you have in your fridge. Look for recipes and inspiration online or in your family cookbook. Involvement is key. Cooking with your kids is meant to be an activity where they are taking the lead with some helpful guidance from you!
Once you decide what is on the menu for the following day, pull out the recipe and ensure you have all the ingredients. If you're missing anything, see if there is anything you can substitute or put it out there to your neighbours who might have some on hand that they would be willing to drop off on your front door.
Preparation for Cooking with your Kids
Many things go into a successful meal. But being prepared is the most important. On the morning of, ensure you have the ingredients set aside, and if anything needs to thaw, it is pulled out with enough time, so you're not left scrambling to microwave ingredients.
Give yourself an hour to prep your ingredients. If your kids are old enough, have them do the chopping and portioning (under supervision). Get everything portioned out and ready for cooking.
Another step I like to take is to set the table before I start cooking. This ensures that when the meal is ready to be served, all you need to do is ring the bell and sit down together to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Most Important Step of Cooking with Kids
Another essential part of cooking is cleaning as you go. There is nothing worse than finishing up a meal only to return to the sink to find all the pots, pans and utensils you used to create your meal. Teaching your kids to keep a clean workspace will not only help make the process less stressful, but it will also aid in the amount of time you are spending in front of the sink after the meal is over. Instead of leaving it on the counter or in the sink, give it a quick wash or throw it in the dishwasher. When you're done using an ingredient (such as herb & spices), toss them back in the pantry when you move on to the next step of the recipe.
Time to Get it Done!
Your job in this is to coach your child and not to take over. Be involved in the process. Coach them on the steps to take. Lend a hand when necessary. And most of all, make sure they are safe, whether that's when they are using a knife or cooking on the stove!
Help them understand the steps they are taking and why they are in that order. Teach them the timing of how long different elements of the meal take to cook, so they understand how to ensure that when the food goes on the plate, it's all hot and ready for devouring.
Plating & Presentation
Once everything is ready to go, it's time to plate it all up. This is my favourite part of making the meal. People often eat with their eyes first so utilize that Pinterest inspiration and dazzle your crew with a meal that looks like it came out of a magazine or restaurant. Get creative with sauce drizzles or herbs as garnishes to give your patrons something that once it's in front of them, they won't be able to help themselves from picking up their fork and digging in.
The most important thing in all of this is ensuring you all have fun. Help your child gain a lifelong skill while spending time bonding, laughing and just being together. If it's anything like my time in the kitchen with my mom, it will be something they will cherish and remember for years to come.
Comment below with your top tips for cooking with kids in your home!