We all dream of raising the next Jamie Oliver or Mary Berry. We all imagine our kids cooking for us in years to come, hoping that the time will finally come when we are being waited on for a change. But how can we encourage this? How can we make sure our little ones develop a healthy relationship with food and cooking, enough for it to become something they enjoy rather than a stressful chore?
We have thought long and hard about this (because it HAS to happen) and have come up with a few tips for parents to get their kids cooking from an early age
1. Start small
Start them off as early as possible with the easiest tasks possible. A toddler CAN stir a cake mix. She Can beat eggs (sort of) and shake mixed herbs into a recipe. Anything he can manage let him try. It can be tempting to stick on a screen while you whip up dinner quickly, but you will be sure to raise a baby chef if you get em’ started in the kitchen ASAP. Try homemade fish or chicken goujons– kids love dipping the fish/chicken into the bowls of flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
Top tip: blitz left over bread in a food processor or blender to make breadcrumbs and freeze in bags, so you will always have breadcrumbs at the ready!
2. Let them grow their own ingredients!
Plant herbs with your kids in pots or in the garden. Ask them to pick herbs for your recipes when cooking. This will help them to understand where food comes from and give them the satisfaction of helping to grow their own food!
3. Let them choose
We don’t mean prepare yourself for a week straight of chicken nuggets and chips. Let them choose what’s for dinner by giving them limited options. Should we have chicken or beef tonight? What veg should we cook? Get them feeling involved and in control of their food. This will also teach them that dinner is not simply mum or dad's responsibility-it is a family affair.
4. Let YouTube take over once in a while
Instead of sticking on cartoons on a lazy Sunday morning, try to get them interested in cooking tutorials on the Internet. Jamie himself has hundreds. Cupcake Jemma is fab for those future bakers. Gordon Ramsey’s daughter, Tilly has her own channel, so they can see that kids really do have a place in the kitchen!
5. Have them help make their lunch for school
This one might seem like a recipe for a messy morning but if you make the sandwiches the night before, all will be well. Have them choose what they want in their lunch box if you think they can handle the responsibility. They will soon learn to place slices of ham or cheese on bread. Monitor them carefully as they spread some butter or Ballymaloe Relish on their sandwich. Dole out some heavy praise when they have their lunch box filled- they will soon be excited to make their own lunch for school!
6. Talk through it
Especially when you're doing something that they cannot help with. Frying or boiling over a hob will have to wait until your kids are old enough. However, there is no harm in letting even under 4s observe and learn at a distance. Tell them why you must continue to stir a pan of pasta sauce. Explain how you know the potatoes are ready. Monkey see monkey do, and your little monkeys will be cooking full meals in no time at all if you start with these simple tips!