Friday, July 11, 2014

Handy Helpers... Engage Your Kids In the Kitchen

I am a firm believer that it is never too early to immerse your kids in the kitchen. I recall a past post I commented on Globe and Mail's article, "Dinner's Not Going To Make Itself", where author Sarah Elton goes on explaining how by night after night, calling our kids to dinner rather than have them help with the kitchen preparations they will never learn the essential skill of cooking from scratch. Nor will it foster that seed of curiosity or excitement around learning about cuisine and its ingredients if everything is cooked, laid out and ready for them to just pick up a fork and chow down. Here are some things I've done with my kids to engage them in helping around meal preparations and even cleaning up.

Take them grocery shopping with you and give them lessons on what to look for to help you pick out and bag fresh produce. Supermarkets are a plethora of sights and smells. Encourage them to use their senses to look, touch and smell the produce if possible and to ask lots of questions. Tour them to the different sections- meat/butcher area, deli, seafood, bakery and tell them what they're seeing- what the employees are packaging, the different cuts of meats on display, guess what kind of flavours are in the baked goods...
Immerse them in the kitchen with simple tasks of washing, peeling and grating, while acquainting them with easy-to-use gadgets that can help get the jobs done. They are always excited to try out the gadgets and see their results.

Let them help you make cookies- 
Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies

Activities like husking corn and spooning seeds from melons are fun and easy enough to also involve my youngest. Matias loves participating and helping out along with his older brothers.

Bond by cooking together- make a recipe from scratch to finish. A simple recipe such as Guacamole can walk them through the entire process from washing and prepping fresh ingredients to enjoying the fruits of their labour. They feel very rewarded, and ask when they can make something again.

Of course, let them watch you cook in the kitchen. In this case, I was making Étienne's favourite Malaysian Oyster Omelet. Don't hold back on explaining each step- they are interested to hear it than you think. I spewed out every detail that went into the dish during the prep, and when the time came to cook, they were more than eager to see everything come to life in the pan, oohing and aahing with every drip, sizzle and stir, and the final transformation on a plate.

Teach good meal-time habits- depending on their age and ability to help, have them set the table by bringing the proper cutlery and condiments to the table. At the end of meals, have them bring their finished plates, cups and cutlery to the kitchen instead of doing it for them. This way they learn proper etiquette and helps you out too! My kids love clearing the dish washer for me, usually used as a dish rack, and placing everything where they belong in orderly fashion. I just pour myself a tea and watch with a smile on my face, savouring the moment.... it's as good as it gets!

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