Confidence in the kitchen is such an important skill for anyone and everyone to have. Helping kids to gain this confidence is so important and comes quite naturally with a few practices that start at a young age.
I appreciate that my mom taught me to love cooking and baking. She did this by encouraging me to watch her work in the kitchen when I was just a little girl. Then, as I got older, she knew I was ready to start making things on my own and she turned me loose to do so. She didn’t micro-manage and she was never overbearing. She calmly prompted me and guided me. I know I made messes, but she was never frustrated or short-tempered with me. I admire her for that. Now I know how hard that must have been for her to have patience as I learned and made mistakes.
I was the dessert baker at our house until my younger sisters were old enough to join the rotation. I’d stand at my mom’s side and help make dinner in the evenings. She showed me how to knead bread dough, read a recipe, let things simmer, chop ingredients, cook meat properly, make a pie crust and so much more! I gained so many valuable skills by watching her and then doing it myself. I knew that when I had my own children I wanted to do the same for them.
Here are some ways to teach kids to have confidence in the kitchen:
Teach by example. Let them see you in the kitchen often preparing meals for the family. Show them how to plan and prepare a nutritious, well-balanced meal by doing that consistently. Show them how to keep a clean, sanitary kitchen. Whether you think they’re paying attention or not, they will notice these practices and emulate them later on.
Show them how to follow a recipe. A recipe is just a list of tasks to be completed in order and what it takes to complete it. If you can follow directions, you can be a good cook/baker! Show them how to half, one-and-a-half times or double a recipe, if needed. It’s a great real-life application for basic math.
Start small and simple and build up to more complex recipes. Teach them how to scramble eggs, make mac ‘n cheese and ramen when they are young. Then, when they have mastered that, maybe move on to muffins, spaghetti, pancakes and mashed potatoes. Get them excited to experiment with new recipes!
Let them help with meal planning, shopping for and preparing full meals and then cleaning up afterwards. When they’re old enough, give them full responsibility for this on occasion. Show them the process of what it takes to come up with a menu, make a grocery list, and shop for the items. Do this together and then give them the opportunity to do it on their own, from start to finish, when age appropriate.
Show them how to use kitchen appliances, tools, and cookware. It may seem intuitive, but kids need an explanation on the basics of how to safely use a knife, how to turn on and off the stove and oven, how to use a microwave and toaster, etc. Show them how to use measuring spoons and cups. They need to know when it’s appropriate to grease a pan before use and how to do it. They need to know which tools are best for which job. For example, when should I use a spatula, when should I use a spoon, and when should I use a whisk? Teach them how to use hot pads to protect their hands when removing something from the oven or stovetop. How do I boil water? How do I soften butter? Should these ingredients be stored at room temperature or be refrigerated?When should I use a skillet and when should I use a pot? When should I use a saucepan? These are great questions to bring up and discuss.
Teach them basic food and kitchen science. For example, which ingredients are solid and which are liquid and what impact does that have on the results? Why do we combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately? Why do water and oil not combine? Why is it important not to over-mix ingredients and what impact does that have on the resulting texture of the baked good? Teach them things like how we don’t run a hot glass pan under cold water or immediately place it in a cold place (i.e. fridge or freezer) or it will crack or shatter. Or how we don’t run a hot metal pan under cold water or it could warp. Teach them that different ingredients react with other ingredients when combined, such as baking soda and vinegar. Teach them not to use metal spoons or other utensils on nonstick cookware so as not to scratch it. Why do we place a shallow bowl of water in the bottom of the oven when baking cheesecake? Let them taste baking cocoa and learn why it needs to be sweetened in a recipe. Show them the difference between granulated, powdered and brown sugar. How do I whip egg whites until soft or stiff peaks form? How often do I need to stir this concoction over the stove top to prevent burning? How do I thicken and thin a mixture and when is that necessary? How do I proof yeast? How long does it take to freeze or thaw certain foods? How do I brown butter and the reasoning behind how the process works.
Show them how to properly handle raw meat and how to sanitize the kitchen afterwards. Show them how to avoid cross contamination when preparing a meal with meat. This is a good one for older kids.
Teach them how to substitute certain ingredients or make their own replacement if they don’t have the one called for on the recipe. For example, how do I make my own buttermilk, half and half or chicken broth? Can I substitute for eggs in this cake recipe?
Teach them common cookbook lingo. For example. What does “scant” and “heaping” mean when it comes to measuring? What does it mean to peel, dice, stir, saute, fold, whisk, broil, chill, chop, cream, dissolve, dust, and baste, etc.? What does it mean to separate an egg? What’s the difference between the egg white and the yolk?
Give them ample opportunities to cook. Cook with them by your side from the time they are little. Let them watch and do small tasks, depending on their age and ability. Let them add ingredients, stir and pour. When they are old enough, put them in charge of cooking certain meals. This could be with or without the assistance of a parent, depending on their age. My oldest daughter is 13 and my oldest son is 10. These are great ages to allow them to take the reins for meal prep! Let them work as a team!
Let them learn by experience and make mistakes. Let them cook and clean in the kitchen unsupervised, when they are old enough. This will probably mean broken cookware and dinnerware, big messes, burned food, and wasted ingredients. The best way for them to learn is by doing on their own and learning from their mistakes. Stay positive and patient and encourage them throughout, no matter what. Give them lots of compliments. The goal is for them to have good experiences in the kitchen and want to keep it up!
By implementing these practices, over time, kids will gain confidence in the kitchen and hopefully learn to enjoy making delicious food! Think of it as an investment in your future. When your adult children come home to visit, you can sit back and relax while they cook you phenomenal things to eat. 🙂
These Watermelon Cookies are so fun to make with kids! I make them with my kids every summer. Also, these Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies are so easy for kids to make! If you’re looking for easy meal ideas to make with kids or for them to make, this Chicken Burrito Skillet Meal and this Beefy Noodle Skillet Meal are a great place to start!
How did you learn to bake and cook? Were you taught at a young age or did you learn later on in life?