At age nine, my daughter showed an interesting in learning to cook. I taught her a few simple and safe recipes to see if that was enough to satisfy what might have been a fad. But now that she is 10 she’s expressing a more serious interesting in learning to cook more than eggs, and to handle a knife. Together we watched the Food Network’s Chopped Junior and discovered that there are many children in the U.S. that are very well versed in cook, and in some cases have more advanced skills kitchen than many adults I know.
My daughter and I sat down recently and analyzed the amount of fat, sugar, carbs, protein, and sodium in her average daily intake vs. some of her school mates’ daily diets. She saw first hand that many of her friends were ingesting far more sugars, fats, and salts in one day then she might in a week. Of course, we acknowledge that our household is not the norm. When you live with a trainer – especially one who has good cooking skills – you’re going to eat healthier than most families. But it still left an impression upon her that she wanted to focus her cooking on healthy recipes, or to follow in my tracks of taking high-caloric foods and using substitutes to make them healthier (like my black bean brownies).
After setting down firm ground rules (like no using knives or the stove/oven without adult supervision), I have begun involving her directly as I prepare our meals. We don aprons together, prepare our mise en place (French for “putting into place,” i.e., preparing all your utensils, foods, spices, etc.) and get down to cooking. She loves telling her Dad or our guests that she was the Sous Chef (2nd to the head chef) as she proudly helps me plate and serve the meal.
Cooking with your kids has little down-side. They gain self-confidence, learn beneficial health knowledge, make memories that they will cherish centered around spending time with you, and – added bonus – if you’re like me, you teach them to clean as you go, which lightens your burden of KP (kitchen pick up). I’ve also discovered that along with a feeling of empowerment and pride that children feel when they can create something tasty in the kitchen, comes the added benefit of a better understanding of nutrition and how it affects the body.
So whether you’re comfortable in the kitchen or not, I suggest you buy a kid-friendly cookbook (amazon has several written by kid-chefs), enroll your child in a youth cooking-class, or best yet – experiment with cooking healthy recipes together.