Small children are naturally curious about what goes on around them, and this extends to what is going on in their kitchens at home. After all, they see their parents make what may seem mysterious efforts to prepare meals and snacks, as they orchestrate over counters, the stove and in the oven. Most wee ones get started in the kitchen when they crawl to a lower cabinet door and pull out pots and pans with which to play. (I believe this is where their first music lessons happen as well – bang, bang, bang!) I know my two boys spent plenty of happy time on the kitchen floor with pots, wooden spoons and measuring cups, to name a few of the culinary tools they got to try early on.
Four or five years of age is not too young to allow children into the kitchen to help out in some capacity, even if it’s just mixing pancake batter in a bowl or adding sugar to hot chocolate. There are benefits to children helping in the kitchen, beyond the reward of preparing and eating their own meals. My mother gifted us “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes,“ delightfully written and illustrated by Molly Katzen, when my boys were early elementary school age. It provided a pleasant entrée into the world of cooking together as a family. Favorite recipes were: Green Spaghetti (can you guess what makes it green?), Carrot Pennies and Hide and Seek Muffins. Here at your library there is a wide assortment of cookbooks calibrated for young chefs at various age levels with adult supervision factored in, so check them out if you’re in the need of a little inspiration. And there’s even a cookbook that lines up with our summer reading theme of superheroes: “The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook” by Matthew Mead.
As kids grow up they can take on more complicated cooking tasks. When my boys were in junior high they began planning dinner menus (yes, with prodding from me but they seemed very interested) so they could have more say-so in what appeared on the dinner table. It was gratifying to see them ratchet up their culinary skill levels. Planning to be relaxed and not in a hurry while supervising their efforts made for better family-time experiences. Their recipe choices certainly livened up our eating prospects (as in this recipe for Sweet Corn Cheddar Pancakes – so delish!).
If you struggle with picky eaters, take heart. That challenge has been addressed, and here are some cookbooks to help. We want our children to enjoy their food and to be well-nourished by it and then, once they are on their own, to be inspired to provide well-prepared and nutritious foods for themselves.