I want to establish a good foundation of age appropriate cooking skills that will be incorporated into the simple recipes. There are so many benefits to learning how to cook by practicing these basic skills, and progressing to the next level. First I did some Internet research on what are considered age appropriate cooking skills (jobs or activities). In general there is a consensus as to what is a kid appropriate task at each age category. I have become so much more conscious of the other benefits to the child that learning to cook provides, ie the benefits beyond the motor skill. For example some social benefits are: boosting self-esteem, creating family time and bonding, and working together as a team, just to name a few.
Certainly all of the resources that I consulted agree we must protect our preschool children from using heat or sharps in the kitchen until they are older. Children don’t worry about being burned or cut from these hazards. The problem is that they’re sure they won’t hurt themselves because they’ve never hurt themselves. We must protect them, while progressing their skills to the next level. Another thing is that all my grandchildren always want to “do it myself”. I will try to demonstrate the correct way to perform a skill or task without taking over for them. After all we are building self-confidence and pride through practice. I came to the realization early on that this was my experience as I progressed through the curriculum at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA): mathematics, food safety, product knowledge, skill development, nutrition, and purchasing – just to name a few of the courses. We were provided with a basic tool kit to which we added unique tools as time went on.
I decided that for this Sunday I will get started with age appropriate cooking skills practice using safe tools. Simple recipes will be introduced as she accrues more skills. I can also assess which skills my 4-year-old granddaughter, Nicky, has already learned. For example: she already cracks eggs perfectly, no shells, without any instruction or demonstration. She spreads the appropriate amount of margarine on the toast, again with no instruction. This skill reminded me of pasting at Lakeshore on Saturday mornings.
Nicky and I are planning on going to Bed Bath and Beyond to collect some replacement tools for my worn out ones, and provide Nicky with her own basic tool kit for her drawer (just like the Culinary Institute of America). I’m going to prepare a shopping list for a basic safe tool kit. We’ll also look for ideas to organize the kitchen cabinets.
In the meantime my mind will figure out some safe work-around tools for avoiding the safety hazards of heat and sharps. This will allow my preschooler to contribute to the entire family meal without getting hurt, for example: the crock-pot, or the rice cooker. I was trying to allow my preschool age grandchildren to prepare more than cookies. It seemed that as a young child I made more cookies than anything else. It wasn’t until I got older that my mom allowed me to prepare the protein/meat portion of the meal. I do remember that when the Connecticut summer day was very hot and muggy my mom would allow me to prepare a “cold” no-cook evening meal for the family. We would eat outside in the backyard on a picnic table. I would enjoy preparing tuna salad, hard-cooked eggs, fruit salad, and many other refreshing cool dinners that didn’t require the use of the stove. This past experience provided me with safe “no heat hazard” ideas for the preschool cook.
Age Appropriate Cooking Skills – this list will build on itself as child matures and learns new skills
|Skill||Age||Safe Tool||Safe Work-around Tool*||Date Skill:|
|Washing hands||2 and up||stool, hand soap, towel||1/27/13|
|Washing strawberries||2 and up||stool, colander||1/27/13|
|Spreading||4 and up||small dull butter knife||1/27/13|
|Peeling a hard-cooked egg||4 and up||1/27/13|
|Cracking an egg||4 and up||small non-skip bowl with handle||1/27/13|
|Whisking||4 and up||small whisk||1/27/13|
|Flipping practice||4 and up||spatula||1/27/13|
|Cutting an apple||4 and up||apple cutter (sharp: needs Grammy supervision)||1/27/13|
|MyPlate presentation||4 and up||child’s plastic dinner plate||1/27/13|
* work-around the safety hazards of heat or sharps (as a general rule children should not use the: microwave, oven or stovetop unsupervised until age 10-13
years old. They can use a knife with supervision at age 10-13.)
We set up her breakfast on her Dora the Explorer plate. She has been using this plate since she can remember. This visual presentation reinforces the USDA’s MyPlate food model. Nicky will be able to see the Food Groups displayed on her familiar plate. There are also MyPlate portion plates available. Nicky almost always has a mid-morning snack of at least 6 baby carrots. This completes the Vegetable section at breakfast, and fulfills one of USDA’s Selected Messages for Consumers Messages: “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”
Next time we will go shopping for Nicky’s basic Tool Kit (just like the Culinary Institute of America). I will prepare a shopping list for us. I want to replace my worn out tools, and purchase some organization tools as well like a spice rack.
I welcome your comments on your own experiences teaching your children or grandchildren to cook.
Basic Skills that Nicky practiced this past Sunday 1/27/13: