Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 2

When I wrote part 1, I promised there would be more… Here it is!

Last time we talked about: Hand hygiene, general yuk, listening to an adult, not touching things they have not been asked to touch, stirring skills, measuring out ingredients, food handling and the language of recipes

This time, we are going to look at some more skills.

Chopping skills

You may be nervous about letting your child use a knife but it is important children learn to use one. Start with a non serrated butter knife and let them spread their homous on their bread. You could then graduate to cutting soft bread or avocado. There are also child safe cooking knives on the market which use a sawing action to cut things. You can use these to cut vegetables but it is quite a different action to a regular chopping action. As your child becomes more confident, let them put their hand on top of yours as you cut things up so they get used to the action required and when you are happy, let them have a go. Make sure they are always supervised and the knife is not too heavy for them.

It is really important that you don’t micromanage cutting things. If the pepper pieces are not all exactly even, don’t interfere. Praise your child regardless of the uniformity of the product! If they think they can’t do it perfectly, they might not want to have a go next time. If what they are cutting needs to be a bit more uniform so the cooking time is even, help them cut the pieces into similar sizes.

You may find for certain ingredients, for example, bacon or sundried tomatoes, using scissors is easier than a knife.

Oven and hob safety

It goes without saying that ovens and hobs can be dangerous. Teach your child not to touch the door of the oven or the stove top, teach them to turn the pan handles in and to use oven gloves when touching hot things. Children will eventually need to learn to get things out of the oven but do this in stages, get them used to stirring things on the hob with you supervising making sure they don’t touch other things at the same time and then let them practise using oven gloves to move things round the kitchen. Once you are happy they are in charge of both of their hands at the same time and they can safely wear the gloves, you can help them to use the oven. Always supervise.

Food hygiene

From making sure you thoroughly wash vegetables to using different chopping boards for raw and cooked foods to how to store food, there is lots to learn about food hygiene. There is too much to discuss here but children have to learn all these things at some point so it is best they learn them from you rather than finding out after they have given the whole family food poisoning. There is some great information here to get you started.

Portion control

Working out how much each person can eat is a challenge for even the most experienced of cooks but it is a skill children need to learn. Looking at the portion sizes on packets can help but some are way out! Experimenting is part of the learning process. If you have cooked far too much, talk to your child about how you can cook less next time but also how you might be able to use up the leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste have lots of tips on this.

Tidying up!

No matter how big your kitchen is, you will need to tidy up at some point. Teaching your child to tidy up as they go along is a skill that can be useful outside the kitchen too! So as you are waiting for something to come to the boil or to bake in the oven, start clearing the work surfaces so you have space to do the next part of the cooking process

 

 

Remember, try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.

 

Cooking · food · Healthy Eating

Jacket potato with tuna and salad

The humble jacket potato gets a lot a bad press but potatoes are a good source of starchy carbohydrate and vitamins, we just need to be careful what we put on them. Jacket potatoes are also a relatively cheap meal.

The focus should be on the vegetables. For a main meal, aim to have 2 portions of vegetables. Remember we are trying to eat a rainbow so different coloured vegetables are important.

For example 80g grated carrot, 80g chopped tomatoes, 140g canned tuna (or 140g tinned salmon if you are having oily fish) and a tablespoon a mayonnaise on top of your potato. The tomato (or sweetcorn if you want) will add moisture so you don’t need to add extra butter or oil to your potato.

You will be surprised how full you are after eating the topping so judge the amount of potato based on your appetite.

 

 

Cooking · Parenting

Cooking with children – part 1

This is the first in a series of articles for parents and carers about the skills I think children need to develop around cooking

When it comes to cooking with our children it is easy to get into the habit of baking with our children rather than cooking with them. Teaching our children cooking skills is vital so here are some thoughts about the sorts of skills which will give them a head start when they are left to their own devices in the kitchen.

Hand hygiene

Before starting any food preparation children should learn that they need to wash their hands, not wet them, wash them. I recently talked to a group of 4 and 5 year olds about ‘painting their hands with soap’ (making sure the bubbles go over all their fingers, their thumbs, their palms and the backs of their hands) and then ‘washing off the paint’  This makes a game out of handwashing but it also helps them understand that the whole hand needs washing and ALL the soap has to come off. Then, encourage them to dry them properly – wiping their hands on their trousers or skirts is not the way to do it before food prep. Be light hearted about it.

General yuk

My boys also learnt pretty quickly that they would be banished to wash their hands again if they picked their nose or their ears when they were cooking! Sneezing and coughing are also not a great way to make healthy food!

Listening to an adult

There are lots of things in a kitchen which are great fun but there are also things which could hurt them. They need to learn to listen otherwise the activity won’t be nearly as much fun.

Not touching things they have not been asked to touch

Again this comes down to safety but also to learning how a recipe works. If you put the pasta in the saucepan with them raw mince, you are going to have a very different dish to the intended spaghetti bolognese. Not touching this they have not been asked to touch is definitely a transferable skill!

Stirring skills

My dad is an excellent stirrer but this is not the sort of stirring children need to learn to be good in the kitchen! It’s quite an art to thoroughly mix ingredients, be patient and, if necessary, hold the spoon with them rather than just doing it yourself.

Measuring out ingredients

Depending on the age of the child, they can get involved in the weighing out. All children can get involved in measuring though. If they are very young, you can pre-measure the ingredients into bowls and then they can spoon the ingredient in, counting the spoonfuls.

Food handling

Some children will love to get messy, others will hate it. Find the activities which suit the child but don’t be afraid of gently pushing them to try to do something new. If they won’t stick their hands in the mince and onions to make meatballs, get them to help put the pre-made meatballs on a baking tray (a cold one!) ready for cooking.

The language of recipes

I remember an early date when my boyfriend, now husband, was rescued by his housemate whilst trying to cook me a mushroom soup for a Valentine’s Day meal. He almost did what many have done before him, put a whole bulb of garlic into the soup instead of a clove. The result could have been interesting!

There are lots of words in recipes which will expand your child’s vocabulary like whisk, beat, fold, dice. There are also lots of abbreviations to get used to tbsp (tablespoon) and tsp (teaspoon), oz (ounce), g (gram). The art of reading a recipe is a key skill for children and adults alike. Being able to read a recipe opens up volumes of recipe books with endless inspiration for meals.

 

There are many more skills but I think this is enough for now, part 2 to follow. Try to have these skills in mind when you are cooking with a child. The end result might not be amazing but think of what they have learnt in the process. Remember cooking is part of play, it needs to be fun (and quite messy!).

I’d love to hear about what you cook with your children.