they ate Your food, free, for years. Perhaps this should be the year when you teach your beloved children how to cook she, for a change. We asked people who teach cooking classes for kids across the country, and they told us that not only is it possible for your kids to become decent cooks, but it’s pretty easy to do if you follow a few basic principles. And yes, they can be expected to clean up afterwards too.
Decide on a goal
Knowing what you want to achieve before you start will make the whole process easier. Do you need help in the kitchen because you are overwhelmed? Looking for a fun way to de-stress after a busy week? Is there an upcoming cultural holiday that is important to your family traditions? Are you hoping to offer a “win” to build your confidence?
Chef Pascal Simon is the founder of Bake Austin, a cooking school for kids that offers virtual cooking classes. She urged parents to also keep the bigger picture in mind.
“The most obvious reason for this is that children are learning valuable life skills and independence,” she said. “Cooking can empower them, help them experience a sense of freedom and boost their confidence. And all of those moments are woven into the fabric of her childhood. It’s a wonderful, relaxing way to connect with your kids, slow down a bit, have some light-hearted conversations, and just spend time together.”
“Teaching kids to cook is one way to help them take control of their lives and reach their full potential,” says Chef Marshall O’Brien said HuffPost. “Cooking is not just food, it’s also nutritious.”
O’Brien enjoys connecting the dots between nutrition and health. “I always tell kids that nutritious cooking for themselves is a way to have more energy throughout the day, have clearer skin, do better in school, and even focus more on video games if that’s their thing.” is,” O’Brien said.
“I tell them, ‘Give up your power,’ and just let it be their gain, not yours. The first mistake parents make is to say, ‘We’re going to cook this meal I decided to make and you’re going to like it.'”
– John Sugimura
“My main goal is always to get the kids excited,” said John Sugimura, corporate executive chief of Taher, a hospitality management group. During his nationwide travels, he has conducted cooking classes and demonstrations in more than 100 schools, reaching more than 65,000 students. For Sugimura it is not Yes, really about the food. “Food is just the tool, the common denominator that brings people together,” he said.
As it is possible
“I’ve talked to hundreds of parents about this, and literally 90% of them tell me that if they messed around, it was because the kids weren’t involved in the planning phase,” Sugimura said.
“I tell them, ‘Give up your power,’ and just let it be their gain, not yours. The first mistake parents make is to say, ‘We’re going to cook this meal I decided to make and you’re going to like it,'” he said. “Try this instead: ‘Let’s cook something fabulous that you love, so tell me what you’ll enjoy about it.'”
“For me, it’s all about attitude,” says chef Anna Klimmek, founder of Happy Food MN. “Go into experience planning to have fun and feel free to make mistakes. Being a chef I’m usually super in control of my kitchen, but when kids are involved you have to throw your rules overboard.”
“People don’t like being told what to do no matter how old they are,” O’Brien said. “But we like it when people ask, ‘Can you help me with this?’ Include them in the process to make them feel like the leader. Give yourself some mercy and if it doesn’t work, try again.”
Take your time to prepare
Anna Hufschmied is managing director of cooking with children, a non-profit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was founded in 1995 and teaches 5,000 students each year. She says every successful cooking session starts with a focus on preparation. “Read the recipe together and collect all the ingredients,” she told HuffPost. She asked parents to remember that cooking is also learning: “The beauty of food and cooking is that it can teach all sorts of academic concepts, including reading for meaning, math and fractions.”
While you may feel like you know every square inch of your kitchen all too well, your kids may have no idea how it’s set up. “Show your kids where the pots, knives and bowls live,” said Simon. “Make sure you have a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and good, dry oven mitts and you know where they are.”
Safety is important and requires focus. “No phones or TVs in the kitchen when they’re working with you,” she said.
What is age appropriate?
Shelagh Mullen runs summer children camps teach children of all ages how to cook. When parents ask them about age-appropriate activities, they say the earlier the better.
“Even a child as young as 2 can help measure, pour, ladle, knead and mix dough,” she told HuffPost. “You can give a toddler a plastic knife and a banana and have them slice it. I think around the age of 5 is a good time to give them a paring knife and a zucchini or mushroom to practice slicing and chopping. The stove and oven are a bit later, more like 9 or 10 years old. And never let them fry anything, which is a job that really should be left to adults.”
Yes, they have to clean up
One thing the chefs told us in no uncertain terms: if your kids can cook, they can clean too. “I think we need to change the script to clean up,” Simon said. “In my classes, I make it a given – if you cook with me, you’re also responsible for cleaning up. But most importantly, we can celebrate a clean kitchen and be proud of a clean space.”
One of Simon’s top tips is to clean up on the go. “Why wait to clean up later when we can quickly do the dishes and put away the ingredients when we need them? It doesn’t take much longer to carry the flour container back to the pantry than it does to set it on the counter. It only takes a minute to rinse out a bowl or wash a plate and put it in the dishwasher.” And don’t forget how much children love water features.
“Dishwasher is a great job to give a little one,” Farrier said. “Dipping your hands in a tub of warm water can really calm them down, and before long they’ll be clamoring to be the designated dishwasher.”
Like cooking, to clean, you need to ask your kids to let go, even if just for a little bit. “They may not clean to our standards, but if they put away the ingredients and even half-wash the dishes, be grateful and give them praise,” Simon said. “They don’t have to do it perfectly, but they can learn new habits and learn that tidying up is something to be proud of and actually brings satisfaction. Trust they can clean up because I know they can.”
Recommended first projects
Farrier suggested applesauce as a surefire first recipe. “We start with our preschool and kindergarten groups,” she said. “It smells so good, and iIt’s a small miracle when everything unfolds.” (Here it ise cooking with children recipe.)
Mullen suggested that a super easy first project is a peanut butter and banana sandwich. “Even the little ones can cut the banana with a plastic knife,” she said. “Let them add extra treats like jam, chocolate chips, or marshmallow fluff. Ask them to give the recipe a funny name, pour some milk and let everyone eat together.”
O’Brien, whose two daughters are 7 and 10, suggested pancakes, which his girls have enjoyed cooking with him for years. “You can practice portioning ingredients, cracking eggs, mixing wet and dry ingredients, and learning how to get comfortable putting a pan on the stovetop as you age,” he said. “Talk to them about how the food looks and smells and changes as it cooks. Teach them to pay attention to that moment when bubbles appear around the edges and you can work your way up to them and feel comfortable flipping them over.”
Simon noted that while baking is also often a popular first culinary project, “cooking a meal is special and more forgiving than baking.” With that in mind, she suggested starting with homemade pizza: “It’s creative and infinitely customizable. You can go to the store together and choose toppings. Children can write a menu, prepare everything in advance and each family member can make their own choice.”
Senior Chefs: The Signature Dish
“If you have senior chefs, it’s fun to teach them a few ‘signature dishes’ that can be their specialty,” Klimmek said. “Do them together three or four times and then say, ‘You’re on your own and I’m not going to interfere.’ My daughter is 16 now and one of her trademarks is Burger Night. She makes a really good burger and she’s so proud of it.”
As your budding chef gains skills and interest, you can also begin to form family and cultural connections. “Pass on your family recipes or create a family cookbook,” suggested Simon.
Then stand back and watch them thrive. “Countless parents have told me their kids have decided to cook dinner more often, sometimes even once a week,” Simon said. “We just have to give them the confidence and the freedom because they’re hungry to learn.”