I love cooking with Trystan. Zoey is almost getting to an age where she can start helping too, my hands may be too busy at the time to get a video, but we’ll see what we can do. Letting the kids help around in the kitchen develops their awareness, judgement, creativity and confidence. Yes, there are some very real dangers in the kitchen, but everything can be dangerous when not properly used. Hence I haven’t had Trystan help with raw meats, motorized utensils or the oven. While helping me cook Trystan is learning the following concepts:
The concept of Hot
Have you ever seen or experienced this scenario?
Daddy: Careful! That is hot! Don’t touch it… (casts a challenging look at the kid)
Kid: Hot? (reaches for the oven door, then begins crying)
Daddy: I told you it was hot. Why didn’t you listen to me?
We often forget that kids don’t have the life experience that we have collected over the years. We provide warnings with explanations of what they don’t understand. They don’t know what “hot” means, or even the word “careful”. Try it, use the exact same tone of voice and say “Don’t touch that! It’s tantalizingly delicious!” and you will get the same look.
One of the first things that Trystan helped me cook was oatmeal. I placed the oatmeal in the boiling water and one after another placed ingredients into a bowl. He would put the ingredient into the boiling pot. Next, I had him pick up the spatula, stir the pot and then tap the spatula on the edge of the pot to remove the excess oatmeal before placing it back on the spatula holder. Repeating the same process for every ingredient, fruits, nuts, sugar, spices, etc. building muscle memory all the while working around a boiling pot which makes him experience what it means for something to be hot. During the whole process, I watch his every movement anticipating a loss of balance or a slip of the bowl or a miscalculation and accidental touch of the pot. If he gets hurt, it is in a very controlled environment where he actually learns that when I say hot, it means caution, and potential pain.
The concept of “Sharp”
Using knives allows them to take caution when things are sharp. We started off with letting Trystan use a butter knife to put butter and marmite on his own piece of bread. Next, bananas and apples. Then Shelly had him cutting small carrots which is a perfect opportunity to explain the danger to them of cutting, since the carrots look just like their fingers. Take into account their awareness level and ability to grasp the knife with control before moving them up to the next step. His latest feat at 3 years old was cutting lemons with a very sharp knife to make lemonade (click this link to view: Trystan cutting lemons).
One of the most important things about cooking is that the child gets used to following directions. It also gets them interested in the food. When Trystan first helped me make oatmeal, he was so excited about it that he pestered Shelly to get out of bed and join us for breakfast. He ate 3 helpings and was so proud of himself (the video says 2, because I posted it almost realtime, while he was eating his second helping but before his third). If you have a child who is picky about the food that he or she eats, try getting them to help prepare the food and emotionally invest in it.