To Get Kids Cooking, Rule #1: Stop Talking!

One of the ways we could change America from fearful to cheerful would be if more schools started doing the Free-Range Kids Project. That’s the deal whereby the teachers tell the students to go home and ask their parents if they can do ONE THING that they feel they are ready to do, that for one reason or another they just haven’t done yet: Walk to school. Ride their bike to a friend’s house. Or…make dinner. I describe the project here.

Meantime, below are some tips from Aviva Goldfarb in The Washington Post, should your kids choose cooking as an activity they would like to try already.

…I’ve been cooking with parents and kids for nearly two decades. While I’ve never had a child get hurt in my kitchen or at one of my demos or classes, I have met many parents who are so consumed with worry that they unintentionally drive their kids out of the kitchen.

The most upsetting example of this was when I was teaching a group of teenagers at an after-school program in the District how to prepare a healthy dinner. One boy was so proud that I was letting him dice raw sweet potatoes with a long sharp knife (which you know is not an easy task if you’ve ever tried it). However, his mom walked in mid-potato and, surprised and scared, screamed at him to stop. I had taught him basic knife skills and was standing right there watching him, but her reaction broke his focus and drained the joy from his accomplishment.

Ah me. To get beyond that kind of buzzkill, Aviva gives seven ways we can get a grip and start kids cooking. These include letting kids make real food, letting the kids use real equipment, and my favorite:

Stop talking. In cooking with kids (and perhaps parenting in general), the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the less we say, the better off we all are. Sure, if they ask us a question we should answer, but it’s important to keep quiet as often as possible when we feel like directing or correcting, and let them figure stuff out for themselves. (The answer to any cooking question or any technique can easily be found on YouTube.) When you do speak up, try to make all your directions and responses encouraging and positive so the kitchen doesn’t become a zone for criticism.

Another suggestion was to LEAVE the kitchen.

With any luck, you’ll be eating kid-cooked Chicken Cordon Bleu (or mac and cheese) by March. – L.

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Quiet! Chef at work.

 

 

 

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54 Responses to To Get Kids Cooking, Rule #1: Stop Talking!

  1. theresa February 13, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    Maybe instead.you should make all parents wait on the other side of the door. Then if someone comes in again you can tell them off. You are in charge of the class that means you give the orders the students follow. Nobody should be interrupting unless its a emergency .

  2. BL February 13, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    “However, his mom walked in mid-potato and, surprised and scared, screamed at him to stop. I had taught him basic knife skills and was standing right there watching him, but her reaction broke his focus and drained the joy from his accomplishment.”

    I remember when virtually all boys carried pocket knives.

    Now mention the word “knife” and everyone acts like you’ve pulled the pin on a grenade.

  3. Amy O February 13, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    I can’t believe this is a TEENAGER. How does he cut his food??? I’m trying to get my 7 year old to use the sharp knives, and she’s resisting because “she might get hurt”. Believe me, this isn’t something that I’ve taught her. I keep telling her she is old enough now, that yes a 3 year old can’t use a knife but a first grader can. But if my kid is a teenager and not using knives I’m doing something wrong!

  4. James Pollock February 13, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    If you’re waiting until your kids are teenagers to get them started in the kitchen, you’re way late.

    My daughter started “helping” in the kitchen when she was 3 or 4 (“helping” in quotes because it took 3 or 4 times longer to wait for her to finish a task than it would have to just go ahead and do it.)

    The keys to getting kids involved are A) don’t do anything they could do themselves, and B) make sure to drill “the job isn’t done when the food’s ready to eat. The job’s done when the kitchen is cleaned up again.” into their little heads.

  5. elizabeth February 13, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    I didnt start making basic meals until middle school. But that was my choice. My parents wouldve loved if i could cook for myself and my brothers because then both of them couldve had jobs (we are not well off by any stretch of the term). The youngest boy (i have three little brothers) learned to cook the earliest (by watching his older siblings).

  6. Emily February 13, 2017 at 10:24 am #

    One approach that might work could be to completely remove the expectation that parents can watch, by presenting it as “kids cook dinner for the adults.”. So, adults would drop the kids off, and go somewhere (maybe the cooking class could partner with a nearby movie theatre or something), and then come back and enjoy a nice dinner made by their kids. Maybe the kids could even write up menus and serve the food to their parents/adults, like at a restaurant. So, instead of “Go away, helicopter parents!!!”; it’d be, “Hey parents, you cook dinner all the time, so we’re giving you a break.”

  7. Jess February 13, 2017 at 10:45 am #

    Screaming at someone while they’re using a knife is a really good way to get them to cut themselves. I think of that often – will me panicking and trying to stop them cause them more harm? I’ve been trying= to push my husband (who’s the stay-at-home parent) to let our kids do more. He worries about messes and possible injury. I keep reminding him that if we never let them try, they’ll never get better.

  8. Roger the Shrubber February 13, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    When did minor injuries become something that must be protected against, at all costs – even the cost of a teenager failing to learn basic life skills?

  9. Stacey February 13, 2017 at 11:01 am #

    Come on… You know good and well that children cannot exist outside the constant stream I call the CONE OF VERBIAGE that keeps them SAFE, or just from walking into walls !

    Ok honey walk this way, open the door,goodjob,nowkeepgoing,that’s right honeyoknowgooverhere,keep going thank you honey good job.
    Yay! we made it down the hall! Good job.

    I cannot stand to be around people with little kids because the constant barrage of verbiage in their presence never stops. The kid never gets a chance to form their own thoughts. Everything is in this insipid, sing song, nyah nyah voice and no wonder parents are exhausted. I listened to it once for 10 minutes on a plane while we were waiting to take off. I almost lost my mind…

    Oh look at that honey, see the man with the luggage? See them throwing it on the ground? I wonder why he does that? DO you know? Where is our luggage? Can you say luggage? that’s right, very good. What color is our luggage? I wonder where it went? Do you think it is on the plane with us?
    The kid was well behaved and quiet but the parent made me need noise cancelling head phones.

  10. Jenna K. February 13, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    Last summer I made it a goal to teach my kids how to cook. They were assigned a rotating schedule on weekdays and on their assigned day they were in charge of all the meals. They also couldn’t do the same thing as someone else or resort to cold cereal or pbj’s. They really loved finding things to try and by the end of summer, almost all of them were able to cook at least one full meal by themselves. I have seven kids, five participated, ages 13, 11, 9, 8 and 5 during the summer. We are doing it again this summer.

  11. shdd February 13, 2017 at 11:53 am #

    Less micromanaging is good. It is hard when we are in a hurry but if kids make their own mistakes they learn the life lessons and move on.

  12. JulieH February 13, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    At Girl Scout camp, we run into kids that can’t handle a sharp knife. So in addition to the progression of age appropriate fire work that we do, we have added knife work in the cooking. We start with a sharp knife and a banana with the youngest kids to help gain confidence and make it easier to focus on safe knife skills. Parents still don’t like it much.

    You know that with cooking it is inevitable that you will bump a finger against something hot – typically is not even a reportable injury but for a kid is startling. At our house, we celebrate such “injuries” (along with poking oneself with a needle while mending or sewing on a button) as being a milestone of being a “real cook” or a “real seamstress” – because you can’t have those things happen if you are always playing it “safe.”

  13. Shawn D. February 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    Causing someone to flinch by screaming at them to stop is probably the most counterproductive things to do if your goal is to actually ensure they don’t get injured.

    My girlfriend is so afraid of getting cut by knives, I do most of the cutting and 100% of the knife cleaning. If she’s around while I’m using knives, she’ll start voicing her concerns and/or staring me down, which is distracting just when I don’t want to be distracted. As soon as I pick up a knife, I usually tell her to leave the kitchen/den or turn around and not watch.

  14. Catherine Caldwell-Harris February 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Really appreciate all the good comments and ideas here!

  15. EricS February 13, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    I always look at it as treating them (children) like people, not invalids. Some people know more, so you don’t have to remind or teach them as much. Some don’t, which we need to work on them a little more. But they aren’t invalids, and are not stupid. Children’s brains are just not fully wired yet. What we teach them is what will be the base of who they will end up being. Teach them fear (whether you realize it or not), they will become fearful kids. Which will make them insecure. And we all know what happens to insecure people, at least mentally and socially. They all get put to the way side, or they turn into arrogant, cocky people trying to overcompensate for the lack of confidence. Either way, it’s not a good place to be for youths.

  16. Miriam February 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    That’s exactly the point shdd. We are in a hurry. A race. Most parents would rather have their kids dress up on their own, but we don’t have time, we wake them up, as babies, change their diapers and dress them up and put them in the car with a bottle and drive to daycare and work, then get them back from daycare, undress, wash, change and dress to bed, story and bed.
    When they are a bit older – they are still too many hours out of home, and when we wake them up in the morning, tired and exhausted, they could dress up, but so slowly that we do it for them. It’s a quick solution in the short term and a slow solution in the long term.
    How will they know how to cook if they don’t even eat dinner together, let alone watch their parents make dinner?
    Modern life is stressed and packed and there is no room for mistakes. If it’s noon and the whole kitchen is a mess after ‘cooking’ together, it’s OK, we have time until 7 PM to clean it up, but if it’s 6:30 PM – there’s no room for mistakes. We get annoyed by kids’ mistakes and mess because we don’t have time to clean it ourselves, let alone let them clean it on their own. I found that now that my daughter is 5, in Kindergarten, she is so tired after a full day there, that I can’t always expect her to choose her own clothes for herself in the morning and get dressed, even though she did that when she was 2 (and wasn’t in daycare).

    To let kids be free – we (individuals/society) have to not only let go of of fear and blame and control. We have to allocate time for children’s self exploration, and time for mistakes and for correcting mistakes. When they are younger – it could be allowing ourselves time to clean after an accident, when they are older is it time for them to clean up the kitchen, or even time to go to the emergency to stitch a few stitches created by a sharp knife. A cut is not the end of the world, but if it’s 8 PM, and they are already supposed to be in bed, after bed-time story and listening to Mozart – and if the parents have a deadline to meet at work the following day, or a presentation to give – then parents get annoyed and stressed and lose their patience. And when trying to survive – prefer to avoid it. Avoid life.
    I admit that I was a lot less patient with bathroom accidents when we were JUST about to get out the door, or when it was late at night. I knew I was supposed to ignore and be supportive (it’s natural, and for sure the child doesn’t want the accident and doesn’t do it on purpose), but I did get angry and lost my patience, even if my daughter didn’t see it most times.

    As one mother told me when she went back to work: “my life is held together with duct-tape”. That’s the norm, and that is also an ideal in the modern life-style. Being busy and not sleeping enough means you’re important, you’re productive, you’re trying hard, you’re hard working. But there’s no room for mistakes. How can we view a life that is so hectic and not stable as an ideal? And if that is the norm – how can we be surprised that a mother will be scared of the option of something messing with her packed schedule, such as an accident, or even just a cut and a visit to the doctor? Not to mention the weather?

    More homeschooling, or better yet, un-schooling, stronger ties with extended families, communities of adults and children of mixed ages, more ‘take your child to work’ days (basically not separating the child from your life as an adult, and not separating your professional life from your family life) – all this will create a more natural rhythm for children and adults. Back to the clan days. But how can this happen?

    And when people do want to raise their children differently – they get away from society, which is again, not solving the issues… https://youtu.be/D1kH4OMIOMc

  17. Catherine Caldwell-Harris February 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    I saw my 6 yo using a very sharp kitchen knife *incorrectly* with the knife blade headed straight for his finger and did scream at him to stop — they’ve been using knives on and off since they were 4 but there are conflicting messages in our house. I say knives okay, Dad says ‘no’. Anyways, later my son did show me that he had a slight cut on his finger and he asked me in private for a bandaid (didn’t want Dad to know). My son claimed it was my scream that made him cut himself, hard to know –. Anyways, no big harm done and in fact that little cut was probably what he needed to be more careful.

    My laissez-faire parents never taught me how to use knives nor told me not to use them and I did cut myself when I hired myself out as a private party waitress as a teenager (stitches not required, but the owners of the party had to get involved to bandage me up). I had to learn the hard way. The older generation like my parents may have been not careful enough; but the pendulum always swings too far.

  18. EricS February 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    @Shawn D: It’s probably how she grew up as well. Have you ever asked her why she’s so afraid? If it is because that is how she grew up. It just give credence to what many have said here. What you teach your kids, that’s how they’ll end up as adults. Most of the time. Would be good info.

  19. Beanie February 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    It used to drive me batty to watch my kids make cookie dough, because of the mess. I learned to leave the room and not come back until they asked for help with the oven. By then they’d totally cleaned up all the flour on the floor. Good for them, good for me.

  20. Elizabeth S February 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    My husband started teaching my son how to use a sharp knife at age two and a half. My son has always had excellent fine motor skills, and an abundance of care and caution, so it was appropriate for his ability. When I first found out/saw, my gut reaction was to be upset. Thankfully, I was able to hold in my fears, and just watch to make sure he knew proper knife safety and handling before reacting.

    We started with small things and emphasized “only with Mommy and Daddy around” at first. Around age 4, we had just harvested some vegetables from the garden when he ran into the house. Assuming he had gone for a bathroom break, we were wonderfully surprised when he came out with a plate of sliced veggies to snack on, complete with plates for us and a bowl for baby sister.

    He was so proud of himself and explained how he had gotten the cutting board and his stool to reach the counter, washed and dried the veggies, sliced them carefully with the sharp knife and arranged them on the plate. The joy on his face was just wonderful to see and helps remind me to double check myself before I gut react to caution him when I should be letting him learn 😉

  21. EricS February 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    @Catherine Caldwell-Harris: I would wager it was your screaming that made your son cut himself. Most kids that age don’t start laying the blame game. Unless they’ve already learned if from other people in the house. My kids starting learning their way around the kitchen starting at age 3. The oldest started using a knife (when he helps us cook) when he was 6. We don’t say anything to him now, because he knows how to properly use a knife. But when he was 6, we first instructed him the proper use, the consequences of improper use, and how to wash and store away when done. For the first little while, we kept an eye, but not say a word. If we saw him doing something incorrectly, that could potentially cause him harm, we would correct him, then leave him alone again. Last Halloween, he carved his own pumpkin. No issues. No supervision. Except when we went into the kitchen to refill our wine glasses. We’d just check how the pumpkin was coming along. The dedication and focus just brings tears to of joy to my eyes. lol

  22. Roger the Shrubber February 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    @Shawn D – RUN!

  23. BL February 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    “Causing someone to flinch by screaming at them to stop is probably the most counterproductive things to do if your goal is to actually ensure they don’t get injured.”

    But screaming shows that you really, really care, which is the important thing!

  24. Mya Greene February 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    This is another reason to bring back home economics classes. I went to high school with people who couldn’t even make PB&J, operate a washing machine, or make a basic appointment.

  25. Shawn D. February 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    @EricS: Hard to say, but she does have various “issues” from her mom. She has other things she obsesses about without warrant, but is oblivious to things I am trying to teach her to pay attention to (such as being alert to her surroundings, especially when in transitional spaces). FWIW, she rides a motorcycle, which I will not do.

    @Roger the Shrubber: Umm… LOL? Sometimes I think the same. 😛

  26. Thea February 13, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    Part of my and my sister’s summer responsibilities starting in 7th grade was cooking two meals a week, sometimes 3. This was on top of an exceedingly long list of chores and “extra duties as assigned”. Now, to be fair, my parents doubled our allowance during the summer. But we were doing full meals and all the cleaning and washing. Seemed a fair trade to us. So, when we left home we knew how to cook actual full meals among other things. My son is only 3 but he’s already helping me bake. You have to start somewhere.

  27. Christopher Byrne February 13, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    Slightly off-topic, but related to kids and sharp objects. My father had been in medical school during World War II. Though he never became a doctor, when we were kids, he still had a bunch of scalpels. He gave them to my brothers and me, and we got a piece of plywood, put it up against the house and took turns throwing them and sticking them in the wood.
    In middle school, we stole spoons from the cafeteria and flattened them with a mallet. Then we took them into the shop and ground down the edges till they were sharp and great for throwing.
    No one ever got hurt. Why? Because we knew we could and were aware of being careful.
    Kids are fascinated by sharp objects and the effect they can have on their world.
    Don’t scream at them. Teach them to respect potential danger and act like “big kids.”
    I’ve cut myself more severely as an adult not paying attention when I was washing a sharp knife than I ever did as a kid.

  28. Backroads February 13, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    So sad a teenager doesn’t have basic knife skills. We are teaching my 3-year-old basic knife skills.

  29. Jane February 13, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    Emily, how many of these help parents would willingly go off to the movies and leave their kids with a “stranger” LOL! The child might be abducted during the sautéed vegetables or inappropriately touched while frosting a cupcake!

  30. Troutwaxer February 13, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

    I think the issue here is that people, particularly in the middle-class and “above” like to reduce risk. So we buy insurance, figure out best/safest practices for everything from taking out the garbage to buying a house, and then feel that our job isn’t done until we’ve reduced the risk to it’s absolute minimum. But we sometimes forget that taking risks is necessary to develop competence and also learn to evaluate the level of risk, and once you’ve reduced risk to the point where competence drops, you’re introducing a much bigger risk than the possibility that your teenager will cut themselves with a knife.

    Also, little childhood accidents are important developmental milestones, because children learn to recover from little cuts and bruises and get on with life. I was never prouder of my son than when, at six-years-old he got soccer ball kicked right into his face hard enough that it slammed his head back and bounced about ten feet, (it must have really stung!) and he just laughed it off and kept playing.

  31. Fritz Menzl February 13, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

    Leonore, that is my experience too, when teaching children 5-12 using sharp tools in my model making cources.

    The worst thing you may give to Children, but mostften the first tool given, is a jigsaw. This tool is a very, very “nervouse” tool. I satrt with Japon sawa (working on “pull” not on “push”), best to control for children. And every child gets a sharp capet knive (Stanley). Wihin the last 10 Years I never had anny child harmed!

    But You are right: keep your mouzh shut, concentratet on your task, avoid musik in tne worksshop and put away all that smartphone stuff, adults too.

  32. Peter Brülls February 13, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    @Amy O Kids at three can use a knife. I just checked my photos. When our son was 1 month shy of his 3rd birthday, he cut bell pepper stripes for us to eat. Now that he’s nearly 5 he often gets bell pepper parts, cucumber, and other vegetables to cut up for breakfast. And we didn’t train a lot, as I wake up early and usually make breakfast for everybody while he and my wife still sleep or are just getting up.

  33. Havva February 13, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Kids truly want to be useful. That is more or less, what my mother-in-law told me on my daughter’s second thanksgiving. I was a little stunned, but she set the toddler to work crushing a bag full of walnuts by walking over them. It worked, and made for a happy kid who let us work. She has been slowly learning how to help in the kitchen ever since.

    A week ago I was rushing to get dinner cooked, and switching frantically between tasks. My kindergartner pushed a stool up to the stove and calmly told me. “I can stir that.” There was nothing to do for it, but get out of her way and say “thanks”. She took care of the sauce (which didn’t have all it’s ingredients yet), so I could get the main course in the oven, and the sides in the microwave. A year ago, while my husband was on business travel, she learned how to prep microwave quiches. She made them for me with spinach and basil, and for herself with extra cheese.

    We are plenty busy on the week days. And she isn’t the most attentive kid ever, so yeah, I haven’t got her chopping veggies yet. But one little task at a time, when we had time, have brought her to the point where she really IS helpful. Where she is saving us time, and not making much more of a mess than I make. She can crack and beat eggs, run a hand powered mixer without pancake batter going everywhere, measure ingredients, stir and flip things on the stove, and tell us when to adjust the heat.

    Kids being in the kitchen is just a normal part of life; or at least it should be.

  34. That mum February 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    My 10 yea old is currently obsessed with baking, she’s getting really good. She just leatbpned to separate eggs with the she’ll (got it first try) she was so proud. My kids have been helping in the kitchen since they were 2, and both have their own penknives they love to whittle with.

  35. Laura February 13, 2017 at 3:34 pm #

    I started early with the kitchen skills. My daughter, age 3, uses my Shun knives (that means SUPER sharp) to help me prep vegetables for dinner: cauliflower, broccoli, celery, peppers, cucumbers, etc. The hardest part is teaching her to ensure the vegetable is laying flat so that it won’t roll from under the knife (how I typically get cut). And to the point of this article, I’ve occasionally talked enough that she’s given up and walked away. So I’ve learned my lesson and just gently redirect the position of the the vegetable without saying anything. She will learn as she grows. But It’s fantastic to already have a sous chef! (And I’m no professional cook or anything. Just a regular mom with a full-time job.)

    When I was in middle school (circa 1990), my mom and sister were on an extended camping trip with my grandparents for many weeks of the summer, and I went to gymnastics most of the day (8-3) while my dad worked. I would bike to the gym, and then bike to the grocery store and the farmer’s market on the way home, get the ingredients needed to make dinner, and then spend the last half of the afternoon making dinner for my dad and me. It was great. He said he would eat whatever I made, and I would pick out the recipe the night before and make a shopping list in preparation for the following afternoon. My dad would make sure I had enough money for the groceries. I loved the independence, as well as the experimentation in the kitchen. Great fun! At some point, I will have similar expectations for my daughter.

  36. JTW February 13, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    if there’s no app for it to tell the parents what to do and monitor the children’s every move, parents can’t let children do it these days.

    Didn’t you know that yet?

  37. Papilio February 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    Ehm… Can I assume ‘stop talking’ means ‘stop hysterically screaming’ rather than ‘stop giving actual useful instructions’?
    I’d say talking is still better than taking over and banning them from the kitchen, if it just means you let them take over more and more of the tasks of preparing a meal and just give instructions, if still needed!, on how to do it, what to look for, what to do if it’s too x, etc.

  38. James February 13, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

    As for getting cut, my view is that it’s learning. I’ve never met any child who properly respected fire until they were burned, and I’ve never met anyone who properly respected a blade until they were cut. As a parent, you have to deal with it. Not allowing your children to learn basic skills because you’re squeamish is child abuse. Using a knife is basic stuff; it’s foundational to what defines our species. And kids aren’t stupid; after a few minor nicks they figure out “Don’t stick pointy thing in squishy self”.

    As for yelling at someone who’s using a knife: You may as well stab them yourself. It’s the same thing as far as I’m concerned. People flinch when you yell at them, and flinching with a knife causes you to cut yourself 9 times out of 10.

    JulieH has the right of it: If you try new things you screw up. That’s the nature of trying new things. This is to be lauded, not discouraged.

  39. donald February 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    I witnessed my sister being a helicopter mom and this is how I handled it.

    I’ll back up. About 6 years ago I was visiting my sister. We met in town and decided to go to her place. However, she had a couple of errands to run first. It was decided that her daughter and I would go to my sister’s house and she would follow later.

    My niece and I were alone in my sister’s house. She was trying to be a good hostess tried by offering me something. I asked for a coffee. It turns out that her mom would allow her to do almost nothing in the kitchen and it was very limited what she could offer me. She couldn’t give me an instant coffee because she would get it trouble for boiling water! She is 14. I chose not to confront my sister – YET.

    4 months later, my sister and I were chatting via email. I vented my frustration on her. “I met this woman that was so overprotective that she is reaping the ‘benefits’ now that her son is 30 years old, won’t move out of the house, and hates her”!

    “She was so overprotective, she wouldn’t even allow him to do anything in the kitchen! This was still the case when he was 15! She was afraid of him making a mistake such as burning a pot or breaking a glass! Who gives a f#*&! about that when you compare it to his developing self-confidence? NO WONDER HE’S AFRAID OF LIVING ON HIS OWN AND HATES HER FOR IT”!

    I made up the story about the 30-year-old. This is how I yelled at my sister by telling off someone else.

  40. donald February 13, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    @JWT

    LOL I Love it! We need an app to load on our phone that instructs parents about how to instruct children in the kitchen!

  41. Librarymomma February 13, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    I may not be free range in every single facet of my parenting, but when it comes to the kitchen and cooking, I started introducing my son to cooking and knife skills when he was fairly young. When he was about 11, we started letting him use the stove to boil water so he could make his own noodles. Now he’s 13, and he knows how to make rice, both on the stove and in the electric pressure cooker. And he can use the oven to bake cookies he makes from scratch. I also let him use a smaller paring knife on his own to cut apples and a chef’s knife to help me cut veggies for recipes.

    I signed him up for a cooking class, but he said it was too basic. So I’ve decided to teach him how to cook and bake other dishes so that he eventually knows his way around a kitchen without my help.

  42. Kirsten February 13, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    A teenager is more than old enough to use a chopping knife!

  43. Elin Hagberg February 13, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    I haven’t started my 4 year old on knives yet (considered it but still feel this is a no for now) but she is allowed to take part in cooking and baking in different ways and she loves it. If I am making something I don’t want her involved in I still let her watch and she sits or stands next to me and she always tells me she is looking so that she can do the same thing when she is older. That was how I learned to cook too, watching my mom and from being allowed to take part whenever I could.

    I am glad my country has obligatory home economics classes that include practical lessons for teens so everyone is taught how to do basic cooking and baking. This does give everyone a basic knowledge of cooking even if you are not that into it. I have never met anyone here who claims not to know how to cook. Not being a good cook, yes, but everyone knows at least 5-10 dishes and how to read a recipe would they really need to cook something.

  44. Jim P. February 13, 2017 at 10:07 pm #

    Have the kids watch some of the Kid’s cooking shows: MasterChef Junior, Man VS Child or Kids Baking Chamionship and see what kids as young as 8 can do.

    Have the *parents* watch some of these shows. Kids have tons of potential and sometimes just need to be turned loose..

  45. donald February 13, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

    A while back, someone on here proposed a ‘bubble list’. It’s like a bucket list for kids to get out of the bubble wrap. My suggestion to add to the bubble list is food.

    Many kids live on ramen noodles, eat out of a can, or are always bringing home fast food. They do this because they don’t know how to prepare food. The results are poor health and a high expense.

  46. Anne February 13, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    All parents need to watch Rachael Ray’s Kids Cook-Off. 9-12 year olds rocking it in the kitchen, enduring competitive stress, handling knives and flames and everything the adult chefs do. They are AMAZING! All I could think of was Free Range and the CA-WAZY parents I hear about.

  47. K February 13, 2017 at 11:47 pm #

    Miriam is right, though I hate to admit it. When I was a SAHM, it didn’t matter if it took my 2-year-old and I 45 minutes to unload the dishwasher. It could be our main activity for the morning. Now that I’m working full-time, if it took 45 minutes to unload the dishwasher, I’d be 40 minutes late for work, so I do it quickly and he doesn’t help. He does far fewer chores than he used to, and I know he’s worse off for it, but I can’t figure out how to fit it into our lives any differently. I *know* that in the long term it’s “faster” to have kids who know how to do chores, but that doesn’t matter when those extra 40 minutes simply don’t exist in your schedule.

    It’s only one of many ways that my life doesn’t live up to my values now that I’m a working parent, because there’s no time for things that take any extra time or effort.

  48. Sheri February 14, 2017 at 5:34 am #

    I can’t imagine not teaching your kids to cook! Mine started chopping veggies, with a large, sharp chef’s knife, at three. They delighted in scooping them into a hot pot or pan and they gobbled them up at the table. They also learned how to measure and stir and follow directions. In turn, they have taught their kids. I was impressed at how my four year old grandson measured out the ingredients for cookies and got them into the bowl and not on the counter. He even knew to be very careful using the big mixer not to overheat the dough excuse he didn’t want flat greasy cookies!

  49. Katie G February 14, 2017 at 6:15 am #

    @BL: pocket knives: since we homeschool, I can get away with planning to give my boys Swiss Army knives when they turn 12, but will give them to our nephews who go to school when they graduate. (Yes, I carry one, which startles people occasionally, and was itching to get one when I graduated, in 2000.

  50. Beth February 14, 2017 at 6:31 am #

    @Stacey, I loved your post! That verbal diarrhea thing that parents do is so hard to listen to and makes me insane. One does wonder what the child thinks (if there’s even room for a thought….).

    Don’t forget Chopped Junior! I haven’t watched the other kids cooking shows, so they all might be like this, but one think I love about Chopped is how supportive the kids are of each other. They share ingredients when they can, compliment each other, and feel for the ones eliminated, plus they can cook like I never have!

  51. kate February 14, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    When my daughter was around 10, I had her and her friends make their own lunches. One girl didn’t know that you could make guacamole from avacadoes. My daughter also liked to bake. I was surprised by the number of kids that didn’t know you could make things like brownies and cookies from scratch. After tasting one, a mother asked what brand mix we used because they were so good! Baking was always a good way to spend an afternoon at our house.

  52. Emily February 14, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    @Jane–People leave their children with “strange” (albeit background-checked) adults all the time, at school and various extra-curricular activities, so why not cooking classes?

  53. Roger the Shrubber February 15, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    @Katie G – My boy got a pocketknife at 8 when he asked for one. I responded to wife’s objection of ‘he might cut himself !’ with ‘he will cut himself, so what?’ Like most obsessions, his interest in his pocketknife quickly faded, and I am unaware that he ever cut himself.

    One of the prize selections for Cub Scouts fundraisers is a pocketknife. Cub Scouts is for 7-11 year olds.

    Give your boys a pocketknife at a young age – regardless of homeschooling or not!

  54. Willow February 15, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

    Roger – girls need pen knives too! I prefer the ones with the locking blades, as I have scared myself several times with a knife that does not lock the blade!