Before I say anything more – I know lots of parents are currently buried. Trying to keep full time jobs going, home school, cook, clean etc. One more suggestion of what to do with this wonderful extra family time could get me a bit of a virtual slap in the face! But really, getting the children involved in the kitchen could be helpful.
If home schooling is getting a bit fraught then take the kids in the kitchen. Cooking allows conversations about hygiene, about where food comes from, to talk about the countries that the dish you are cooking comes from, you can count and measure and time, you can convert one unit to another, you can talk science…… There is so much learning that can be done whilst doing something fun. And making a meal or some snacks at the same time.
As a Scout and Cub leader, when I ask what the kids really love doing at meetings and what they would like to do in future ones, cooking is always high on the list. Granted, some of the time they cook they are doing it outside, maybe on a fire which is pretty cool. But, even when we are in the church kitchen they love it.
When you are cooking with several kids at a time, then they get a level of autonomy that they often don’t get in their home kitchen. They like the independence. They also love eating what they have cooked – even when it hasn’t turned out perfectly.
Cooking is a life skill. Cooking helps children broaden what they eat – can be a slow process but it does help. Cooking food is rewarding and creative. Children like to see others eat what they cook and are proud of their efforts. Some of our best food memories are cooking as children with special people. From stirring the cake mixture and licking the spoon to baking your first cake by yourself.
Having an idea of what food related tasks could be helpful, giving children a responsibility and trusting them to do it can be really positive too, especially now with everyone at home together. A simple step up from setting the table is getting the things needed for a breakfast or a cold lunch. They may already be doing some of these things – allow them to move on to the next level. Allowing them to choose what to have for a meal (it might be a strange combination) and being involved in making it. You may be surprised how quickly children can cope with the responsibility of preparing something independently.
When children know there is some element of danger and that they are being trusted to be grown up they can really surprise us. You might find that by the end of lock down your children could be quite comfortable cooking a simple meal or cake by themselves.
Food – a Fact of Life has lots of recipes but also on their website are lots of resources and activities about food that you could use. They are intended for schools and teachers but if you want to take this opportunity to get your children understanding more about food and nutrition what ever age they are this is a great website to go to.
Some simple ideas:
Pitta bread pizzas
They need to dilute some tomato puree, grate some cheese, choose some toppings, some they will need to chop – pepper, mushrooms, ham, sweetcorn, olives, tomatoes etc. Let them assemble their pizza and make faces with their toppings. Pop them into the oven until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted.
For a more interactive experience then make bread dough, they can see the dough rise and learn about how yeast works, they can knead the dough and get hands on.
Pasta, pesto and peas
Simply boiling water, adding quick cook pasta and frozen peas, draining the pasta and stirring in pesto. A really easy start to using the cooker and learning some safety rules about boiling water, hot cookers etc. Other veggies can be added and you could use tubes of tomato, vegetable sauce or diluted tomato puree instead of the pesto.
Microwave mug cakes are a very easy way to get kids to make a sweet something or pudding. Everything in a large mug. No bowls. Small word of advice – do put the mug on a plate in the microwave in case of overflow. Much easier to clean up especially if child number two is waiting to put their mug in the microwave!
Let me leave you with something your kids will love. Big up the raisins or other dried fruit, nuts or nut butter – these are good additions to something that is pretty high in sugar but it takes a good while to get all the ingredients properly mixed and fudgy, and they can save some to eat on another day!!