Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let kids do their own cooking

In the same spirit as my call to "Bring cooking down to your child's level," here's a real-life photo journal of how our three-year-old does some of his own food preparation and cooking. I was there to supervise and assist as needed, but I mostly just stood back and watched him go.

When children prepare and choose their own foods, it makes them more likely to want to eat (if that's an issue around your house), and it can help make eating and cooking enjoyable rather than a power struggle or chore.

Plus, I think it's just good to realize how competent our children really are, and what kind of responsibility they can handle if we let them.

Preschooler makes his own fries

Would this be more impressive if it were a salad instead of frozen french fries?
Well, at least it's not Muddy Buddies.

Mikko chooses his own food and knows where to find it.

He counts out how many he needs.

A sturdy step stool can help shorter kids navigate kitchen counters. We found a couple two-step ones at Target and Ikea, which are similar to this one at Amazon, but something even taller and sturdier like the Little Partners Learning Tower would be even better.
(Yes, I'm coveting.)

An easy way for little kids to heat pre-cooked food is by pushing the toast button down on the toaster oven.

Mikko lets me handle the food and oven once they're hot, and I got the plate down for him from our rather high cabinets. If our (non-precious) plates were stored accessibly, though, that would be a great way for kids to help themselves and learn to set the table, too!

Mikko knows his condiments.

His father helps with the aiming.

I just want to point out that the rest of his meal is behind him: a banana, an orange, a butter sandwich, and some organic cookies. He's a grazer!

The one picture that turned out too blurry was when he first offered me a fry, which I thought was rather sweet! I guess he must have thought I was famished, what with my camerawoman duties and all.

It tasted very good!

How do your kids help choose and prepare their own food?


Megan said...

In my classroom, I put out plates with food on them, each covered with a dome. They go out first thing in the morning, and then as the children get hungry they can choose what to prepare. Usually I will have out orange halves for juicing, banana cutting (in half the long way, with a banana cutter) or apple halves for cutting (with an apple cutter)for the fruit. Hopefully next year our apple tree will start to produce and we can take it from the harvesting step :). Then I try also to include a vegetable like raw carrots (cut in half so they lie flat) or cucumber. Those they cut with a wavy cutter - it cuts through carrots with very little force for an adult and is manageable for a toddler, plus the health department doesn't have a problem with it because it doesn't have sharp edges. I try to do cheese with a wire cheese cutter or eggs with an egg slicer so that we also have a protein, but proteins can be hard to manage with all the allergies and dietary restrictions that people can have. I would love to put out nut cracking but I don't dare take the chance of an unknown reaction occurring. Also, we have an angled jar with a lid and tongs so the children can serve themselves a carbohydrate snack like animal crackers or pretzels. That's on a daily basis - we try to do baking activities with different parents during the year as well, but we have to bake it in another room because the health department is worried about children getting burned. I've seen toaster ovens out in classrooms in other states, though (I'm in AZ), with recipes that have the measuring cups color coded so the child doesn't have to understand math to mix the right batter. It just shows, for example, 2 red cups and a picture of sugar, so the child knows to fill up the red cup with sugar twice - very basic counting. Of course I give them a lesson before they do any work independently, and observe to make sure they aren't doing anything dangerous or having too much trouble - but I imagine any parent who reads this blog would do that without thinking :).
I also have to say thank you for bringing this up, because even in a Montessori school we have a lot of parents who still do EVERYTHING for their children, to the point where their child can't tell you where to find a bowl in their own kitchen. And it's important to teach them how to do things, because it makes children feel confident that they can fulfill some of their own needs and contribute to the family community in a meaningful way.

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

At two and a half my daughter cut up fruit for her fruit salad and yoghurt breakfast this morning.

OT and ET said...

Oh my gosh your little Mikko could be a french fry model, a baby hair model, a toaster oven model, too cute! And he knows his way around the kitchen, that is awesome. I aspire to the same for our 19 month old! He has his own play kitchen within our kitchen and his own drawer in the kitchen (full of toys, but eventually it will be full of non-precious plates and kiddy silverware and stuff). Too cool. Thanks for the post!

amy friend said...

my 2 year old is so proud of his ability to do just about anything in the kitchen. i try to give him as much independence as possible...and not get too itchy about the MESS. today he walked to the fridge and announced, "i'm hungry for soy sauce and apples." :) obviously, some guidance is needed. :)

Unknown said...

He is such a champ. When did he start helping with the cooking?

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Awesome! I love it when Kieran cooks with me.
It's funny, Acacia at Be Present Mama just did a fantastic post about kids in the kitchen, and I have been working on a post about easy/healthy toddler/preschooler snacks. I asked Acacia if she'd want to team up on something, but maybe we could do a trifecta - you could do one too :) Interested? I mean, I know you're not busy and all!

Lauren Wayne said...

Megan: Your classroom sounds so right. I love your techniques and your philosophies. The more I learn about Montessori, the more I want to learn. Thanks for the ideas, too, for ways little kids could do more cutting and cooking. I'll have to find a wavy cutter, and I love the color-coding idea. My son's preschool is doing more cooking lessons for snacktime. Last time they made little pizzas (unbaked) — some sort of pre-cooked crust, then spreading tomato sauce and shredded cheese on top. The teacher said Mikko ate pretty much all of his, which I think is testament to the ownership kids take when they make something themselves.

Christie: Yea! Mikko's current joy is peeling oranges. He runs to the kitchen and gets a (butter) knife out of the drawer to pierce the skin, and then he goes to town. I love how much he enjoys it.

Lindsey: Thank you! :) I think it would be so fun to have a play kitchen, too. I know Mikko loves playing with pretend foods. That's a great idea to give your son his own drawer.

cypress sun: Soy sauce and apples! Maybe it's the new fusion cuisine trend. I also have to try not to worry so much about spills and waste, and it's hard.

CrunchyVTMommy: I don't even know when he started! It's been awhile, for sure. He's loved "helping" since he was able to get around on his own.

Dionna: Sure thing! Let me know. I'll have to go look for Acacia's post. Oh, here it is, if anyone else wants to go see: "Kids in the Kitchen: Snack Central." Those are some great ideas!

Megan said...

I found my wavy cutter at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $3. They have them in the Montessori catalogs too, but I'm not sure if it would be worth the shipping cost to order one.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lauren, read your post when it came out but didn't comment. Everett does a lot of his own food prep like PB toast but toaster oven is a great idea.
Hubby and I were just talking about getting one when we move in September. I told him we gotta get one so Ev can make his own fries, too! He could do mini pizzas, or "grilled cheese" too.

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