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Children can Cook!

I was only about 8 years old when I took over the cookie-baking chore of two batches a week to feed four big brothers. If that sounds young to you, understand that Mom was never very far away and played a role in clean-up (measuring flour takes practice!) But, like all my brothers, I left home knowing how to cook for myself.

We knew our kids were on the right track with cooking when, one day when I was a bit tied up with a work project, my five-year-old asked if she could start lunch. When I came downstairs, she’d set the table, made peanut butter sandwiches for the three of us (wheat and jam for me, wheat and honey for her brother), poured the milk expertly, and had three apples on the cutting board. I said, “How wonderful you’ve done so much and thank you for keeping the apple-cutting for me!” She knew the rules and the process.

How do you get children started while ensuring their safety around mixers, stove burners, hot ovens and knives? Gradually! And with a few ironclad rules surrounding adult supervision. Some of my favorite preschool “recipes” include

  • Cracker Fish. Place several soda crackers and a bit of pepper and dill in a Ziploc bag. Put a toy hammer or a rolling pin in your child’s hand and ask him/her to crush the crackers. They usually go at it with gusto. Meanwhile, cut thawed or fresh fish filets into large fish stick size pieces. Dip these in milk. When the crackers are crushed, place a few pieces of fish inside the bag and have your child shake it until cracker pieces stick. Then place the fish in a greased, shallow oven dish. Repeat until all the fish are coated. Bake at 400 degrees until fish is flakey (time depends on fish thickness).
  • Chocolate Chips Distributed. Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, preferably one with rolled oats for extra chewiness and goodness—but hold out the chocolate chips. As you drop the cookie dough by the spoonful onto the cookie sheets, have your children press 3-4 (or 6-8!) chips into each cookie. This not only involves your children in a simple part of the process but also ensures that all cookies are created equal.
  • Pizza. Our favorite pizza crust is easy, although best done in a mixer: 2 cups flour, 1 egg, 2 T olive oil, 1 package yeast dissolved in ¾ cup water, ½ tsp salt, pepper and fennel seed to taste. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes or so. Then assemble! Spread out small dough circles for each child, up to three per cookie sheet. Make a bigger pizza for adults to share. Let your children put on their own toppings, from the tomato sauce to meats to pineapple, olives, onion, mushroom, etc. (our kids rapidly increased their range of likes this way!) Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is lightly browned.

There! You’re on your way to having extra chefs in the house! Bon appétit!

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is  www.janekise.com