I began learning to cook as soon as I could walk. And that love of creating in the kitchen has never died. It hasn’t always been pretty, but every experiment-gone-wrong taught me something…. and sometimes those experiments went right! Parents know they need to keep their kids happy and healthy, but one day you’re going to realize that your children need to know how to cook, and should understand how food connects cultures, and where their food comes from. The sooner you start involving them in the kitchen, the deeper their cooking aptitude and general curiosity will be. Cooking while young taught me that it’s ok to make mistakes – and sometimes mistakes go completely right and you wind up with something you never planned for but is much more amazing. This is a valuable life lesson on a micro-scale, and it’s one kids can start learning at any age.
So how can you inspire your kids’ curiosity for cooking, and turn them into a foodie of the future?
Here are some practical tips to inspiring children to appreciate be curious about cooking, that you can introduce to them at any age:
Introduce them to new cuisines
Everyone tends to have a set menu of dinner specials that we cook on rotation in our households. This simplifies grocery shopping, and makes it easy to whip up dinner after a long day of work. This also means that the food you serve your family may be in a particular food-culture, and its important to be aware of how your children understand their world through food, and how you can influence their understanding by tying food to culture at mealtime. When I was younger we sat on the floor around a low-table to eat Indian, African, or Asian cuisines. I understood that this is how those cultures enjoyed their meals. It made mealtime an immersive experience that probably contributed to my passion food and culture.
Introducing young children to different cuisines early in their life can be extremely beneficial. For one thing, you’re always surprising their taste buds with something new and making the actual activity of eating more exploratory. Children can be very open to different kinds of food, sweet, sour, hot and spicy, etc. If you don’t know how to cook cultural foods that children will eat, pick up an international cookbook written for mothers.
Baking treats they choose
We all know most children have a sweet tooth and sugary treats are completely irresistible. Buying pre-made cookies are full of preservatives, chemicals, excess packaging, and can be costly. Instead, opt to teach your children how to bake their own sweets (even starting with a boxed mixed is fine!). There’s so much you can do by creating your own recipes and customizing existing ones to inspire a child’s creative side. Part of the fun when making cookies is you can make your own shapes, decorate the cookies, or choose your own stir-ins (like Reeses or walnuts!) to give children an active role in the recipe. You can take a look at beginner supplies on elephantcookiecutter.com/cookie-decorating-supplies-for-beginners/ to see what your child will like best. Using these tools, your children can get more involved and have fun making their own treats. On top of all this, it’s cheaper to make at home, and you know exactly what you’re putting into your children’s mouths.
Start a Home Garden
Because food generally comes from a store, children are growing up with a disconnect between where food actually comes from, and they may have a more difficult time appreciating the science and nature behind growing crops and raising meat and dairy. Starting a backyard garden with your children opens their eyes to how food is grown, and lets them grow up appreciating nature and what it gives to us. When it’s harvest time, send the children out to gather the crops and then make something along with them, with what they’ve harvested. This should help them understand and appreciate their food so much more than if you pick your produce off a grocery store shelf. If you don’t have room or time for a backyard garden, taking trips to a farm is a great idea, where children can pick their own fruit and vegetables, milk cows, and see a hen house with eggs. This gives children a deeper understanding where food comes from and will leave a lasting impression on them.
Do you know other ways to inspire young cooks? Share in the comments below!
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