Friday, October 16, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

I found a great story the other day about a pair of sisters who have developed a love for cooking as a result of hanging around in the kitchen with their parents and extended family. Isabella and Olivia have created their own cooking website just for kids, and have even published a cookbook. And by the way, they are 11 and 9 years old.

I am so inspired. I don't see that Miss Boo is necessarily on the fast track to being the next prodigy entrepreneur in any field; however, a lot of kids benefit from having the freedom to explore the world around them. Boo frequently expresses interest in all kinds of culinary practices from cracking eggs to inventing her own soup to making ice cakes.

And that's just the kitchen. She has another whole side interested in creating things out of tape, foil, paper, staples and string. No kidding. She is carefully tutoring her little brother in the art of using a roll of aluminum foil, 1000 inches of tape, 500 sheets of printer paper, a bottle and two sticks of glue, and several full cartridges of staples in a week. Oh yeah, and last week she took my entire recycling collection and repurposed it into building blocks for a castle in her room.

I always said I wanted a curious child, full of initiative.

Then I got one, and I don't know what happened to me. I find myself denying her access to the kitchen: "Not now, honey, I'm making dinner. I just finished doing the dishes. I don't feel like cleaning up any more messes today."

I am astonished at the speed with which I snap: "Clean up your room! Stop playing in the Recycle Bin! NO you can't have any more foil!"

Memo to myself when I have exactly the kid I wished for: WAKE UP AND APPRECIATE IT!!!!

One thing the article about the cooking sisters mentioned is that you have to allow grace for the kids to spill things on the floor, or burn the soup. That's part of exploration and learning the limits of cooking principles.

I can't exactly lower my standard of allowing the messes to happen. The standard is in the basement already, and it makes me crazy. But I need to be FAR more intentional about allowing structured time for Boo and Roo to explore their creative side. The Captain is really good about encouraging the kids' artistic tendencies; I need to take a breath, and take a page out of his book.

I read that as far as cooking is concerned, kids that are comfortable in the kitchen also have more self confidence and perform better academically. Yes, please!

Another important principle is to give the kids tasks they can physically handle. My kids have been cracking eggs into the batter since they were about 3. Boo and I made banana bread together a few months ago, and her 7 year old tasks included mashing bananas, measuring flour, cracking eggs, stirring the batter, and spooning it into the loaf pan. I handled setting the stage with ingredients and mixing utensils, then put it in the oven.

One really fun way to get the kids involved is to make food items that utilize toppings, such as pizza, tacos, baked potatoes or salad. Toppings can go into a muffin pan, and the kids get to build their own creation.

We recently started a tradition of having special dinner on Fridays, followed by family movie night. So far we've had breakfast for dinner four weeks in a row. But I'm thinking the next time we're going to have build-your-own pizzas. That sounds really fun!

Visit the Spatulatta Sisters for videos, recipes and tips for cooking with kids. I'd love to hear about your adventures with kids in the kitchen!

1 comment:

  1. i like reading about these things. i'm glad you're discovering more joy in your children, but i have to say that i can tell you already enjoy them so very much.

    we like to make biscuits and pancakes, eggs, and muffins together. zaya does a lot of scooping and stirring.

    and i'm laughing at your word verification, it's Boo's name. (:



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