Tips, recipe ideas for teaching kids to cook
Whether it’s Play-Doh or real dough, kids love to sink their hands in and enjoy mixing and rolling, squishing and smashing things under their small fingers.
If you are sheltering in place with your kids — whether you’re working from home or not — it’s the perfect opportunity to teach them some culinary skills and maybe even a little math in the process.
“Usually, parents are just trying to get dinner on the table,” said Amy Meiers of Santa Rosa, a mom who has been working at home while sheltering in place with her family, including 12-year-old son Cannon. “But now with this forced slowdown of life in general, it’s the perfect time to involve kids.”
Meiers and Cannon have won some major cooking contests over the years. In 2016, the mother-and-son team were invited to the White House for a “kids’ state dinner” after Cannon was the California winner of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.
Meier’s most important piece of advice to parents who want to cook with their kids? Try to make the experience as fun and relaxed as possible so your kids will want to return to the kitchen.
“If I’m peeling carrots and potatoes, I ask Cannon to help,” she said. “But the most important thing is to make sure it’s not stressful.”
Once you make it fun and exciting, your kids will get pulled in and soak up the new knowledge like kitchen sponges.
“You get their full attention because they can’t do anything else while they’re concentrating on what you’re doing,” she said. “And when they’re excited, they pay attention.”
How to get started
You can introduce your child to the kitchen whenever he or she is able to follow basic instructions, such as “stir this.”
Cannon, who has a rare genetic disorder that requires good nutrition, started cooking around age 5 after bringing home a fish from the annual Kids’ Fishing Derby at Lake Ralphine in Howarth Park.
“The next day we cooked his fish, and I have a picture of him smiling,” Meiers said.
“We made fish tacos. He loves fish tacos.”
Don’t be afraid to start simple and work your way up.
“The first thing I learned how to make was scrambled eggs,” she said.
“My Aunt Tracy was with me in the kitchen, stirring the eggs in the pot.”
Meiers, who has been cooking out of her freezer lately, likes to stock up on frozen vegetables like spinach, peas and corn to help feed her family.
“I add peas to pasta or chicken pot pie,” she said.
“I put the white corn in chili, and I make a really good guacamole that is a play on Mexican Street Corn.”
Your kids can squeeze and smash the avocado while you char the corn on the stove, she said.
Then you can both mix up the guacamole with some lime and sour cream.
Try a pizza pie
A lifelong baker, Meiers looks to pizza as another kid-friendly project that can even teach them about fractions once it’s time to slice it up.
“It’s so simple. You can’t really mess it up,” she said.
“I always make my crust ... but kids should remember that it’s fun to be in the kitchen. So if that means buying a pre-made pizza crust, I’m all for it.”