Nothing is more important than your example of cooking regularly.
As I was preparing for this topic, I asked my kids what they remembered about learning how to cook when they were younger. They both replied that at first, it was really fun and exciting, but as time went on and they got busier, it became less fun and more chore-like. The take-home message? Start young if possible, but if not, start now regardless of age. My teenage son even recognizes that it is an essential life-skill that he is glad to have. And it’s really nice to come home to a delicious, hot meal made by your teen! So, here are a few ideas to help you in the kitchen with your kiddos:
Start early. You’ll need to be committed to teaching your kids to cook, long before it seems convenient. It requires some extra effort and patience early on, but it pays off when your teenager pulls together a homemade chicken noodle soup or stir-fry when you are running late.
Help them take ownership of cooking. Consider purchasing or making a cookbook or apron for each child - encourage them to collect their own recipes.
Make it a regular part of their responsibilities like any other household chore. Consider assigning a child to make one meal per week. Allow them to choose menu items and involve them in making the shopping list.
Shop together. Let your kids explore the produce section and encourage them to pick out a vegetable they are willing to try that week. This might be a good time for kids to explore and try out food from different cultures.
Teach them to work around personal preferences. Maybe they hate cooked peas, but love them frozen or snap peas. Kids with loose or sore teeth might be wary of crunchy veggies so try steaming them slightly. (cooked vs raw mushrooms, cherry tomatoes vs. tomato sauce) Taking into account the family’s needs is part of meal preparation.
Encourage creativity. Allow and encourage them to be creative in how they plan and present their meals. Anything from sandwiches cut into shapes to fun garnishes and napkin folding will help engage and hold their interest in one of life’s most necessary, yet creative tasks - cooking!
Start simple. Fruit salad - a young child can help put together a fruit salad as part of a meal or snack. French toast vs. pancakes. This simple recipe can be physically challenging, but flipping a slice of French toast is easier (and less messy) than flipping a pancake. Spaghetti, tacos and sloppy joes are also very kid-friendly and fairly simple recipes to start with.
Remember – nothing is more important than your example of cooking regularly.