Teaching cooking to children can be fun. Learning to prepare healthy and delicious meals for your family is rewarding and teaches children responsibility. Cookery is not just something children do to eat, it is also something that they can relate to, be inspired by, and even use in their everyday lives. As I have spent the past year and a half teaching cooking lessons to adults and children, I learned so many wonderful lessons (some of the difficult way) that make teaching cooking to children so fun and so effective.
The first thing I did as a teacher in a summer camp for children enrolled in culinary classes was to get them comfortable in the kitchen. It was difficult at first but all the children were so happy and giggled when I served cold, frozen entrees. When a child feels like they are in charge of what goes into their mouth and how it comes out, it helps them to love to cook and to have confidence in their abilities as a cook. In my experience, many children lack confidence in their ability as a cook and are uncomfortable with ingredients, food preparation, and the actual process of cooking. By putting them in an environment where they feel relaxed and supported, children who are afraid of the kitchen will be much more confident in how they enjoy their first bites of pizza, spaghetti, or lasagna!
Second, once I put them in a kitchen setup where they felt comfortable, the second part of my job was to ensure their safety. That means preparing meals that are high in fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils). Sodium and trans fats are found in more than 90% of America’s total food supply. A quick Google search will reveal this. Not only should you consider avoiding these chemicals in your recipes, but by choosing the highest-quality ingredients possible, you will be able to eliminate the consumption of those dangerous chemicals.
Teaching Nutrition Education
Third, the third most important part of cooking is learning how to store the foods you create. You can either use a traditional cabinet or your own kitchen setup to store the foods you cook in. I prefer the cabinets because they offer a non-stick surface and are easy to clean between uses. When you cook frequently, it is a good idea to have two separate areas in your kitchen setup: one for the ingredients and one for the cooked food.
Fourth, another key component to healthy cooking is remembering to take a break when you are done with your meal. I find myself taking a short nap during the process. Just as babies require naps in order to recharge their batteries, aspiring chefs need breaks between their cookery. Just like the baby’s growth spurts, cooking requires that you eat and rest.
Fifth, use your hands. A large majority of successful cooks says that they get the best results from using their hands instead of a computer or kitchen computer. A large part of recent research has focused on the importance of hands-on learning and food preparation. I think this is because most people who are cooking are so used to clicking, rolling and stirring that they lose the ability to accurately and efficiently cook using only their fingers.
Sixth, teach children about food safety. Children’s understanding of food safety and health is much higher than their understanding of monetary benefits or the appearance of a meal. This is why I recommend introducing children to elementary health and safety methods early in the process of teaching nutrition education. One very effective method of teaching children about food safety and the responsibility of every individual to protect themselves from unhealthy food is to have them perform a hands-on demonstration of washing their hands with soap and water. Not only does this demonstrate proper hand hygiene, but it also instills the importance of treating everyone around them with care and respect.
Finally, I would like to share with you some further thoughts that I have had since I began teaching cooking lessons for families and individuals in 2021. My opinion is that the majority of the “helpful” advice in many books and magazines on kitchen appliances and cooking styles actually does more harm than good. For example, many magazines recommend certain brands of cooking machines over others or suggest certain pans in order to get that crisp apple crisp bottom that so many people desire. It is unfortunate that these professionals feel that their advice is so important that they want everyone to follow their lead. Rather than teaching families how to cook properly, these professionals tend to convince them that they need all these fancy gadgets in order to accomplish a specific task. In my opinion, this can actually be harmful for the family man.