Learning to navigate your way around the kitchen is such an important skill to have and will build confidence in your cooking talents right away. Teaching your kids how to follow a recipe is right up at the top! And will assist them in taking a giant step toward becoming master of the kitchen?
Don’t let your kids grow up and leave home before knowing their way around the kitchen!
When teaching your kids how to cook, you want to start them off on the right foot. Give them a tour of the kitchen. Show them where to find the measuring spoons, spices, pots, and pans, mixing bowls, and spatulas. You can even make a game out of it!
You can send them on a kitchen tool scavenger hunt, or ask them to find the item that does a certain job–such as dividing the egg yolk from the egg white (egg separator) or a kitchen appliance that makes mixing wet ingredients easier for you (handheld mixer).
Following a recipe is the perfect beginning for brand-new readers.
Another element to getting comfortable in the kitchen is teaching your kids how to read and follow a recipe, and learning to cook should always begin with this skill. You can begin teaching them to follow a recipe before they even know how to read. Here are some ideas you can follow if your child is at a low or non-existent reading level:
- Start by having them repeat the ingredient list with you.
- Point to the amounts (ex: 1 cup of…) as you help them recognize the numbers.
- Have them count with you as you pour, scoop, and measure each ingredient.
- Point out where it states what cooking tools you will need and have them help you pull out each tool.
- Allow them to set the temperature on the oven after you locate the preheating directions together.
Learning to follow a recipe is just as important as knowing where the measuring cups live.
Instruct your child that until they become a pro in the kitchen, they need to follow the recipe! (Even the pros do it. 🙂 )
Following a recipe is like putting together an Ikea bookcase; if you don’t want to end up with a jumbled mess that looks nothing like the item you loved in the store, you MUST follow the directions when putting it together. Well, the same goes for cooking without a recipe!
“What is a recipe and why do I need it?”
This concept of following a recipe to make their favorite foods will be new to young chefs. But starting here and then building on their cooking skills will help them so much in the long run. So here is a plain-and-simple explanation to help you get started.
Following a recipe:
A recipe explains exactly what you need to do to make food. And there are 5 parts to a recipe: 1) Ingredient list, 2) Cooking equipment needed,3) Directions, 4) Cooking time and temperature, and 5) Yield.
1. Ingredient List:
This list tells you the ingredients and amounts you will need. Start by reading the ingredient list and compare it to the foods you already have on hand in your pantry, cupboards, and fridge. Gather each item before you get started. To make it easier, you can arrange each ingredient in the order needed.
This ingredient list will save you time. If you don’t have an ingredient on hand, you will need to add it to your shopping list to purchase at the store. Save time by scanning your recipes before making your shopping list.
2. Cooking Equipment Needed:
Most recipes may not specifically state what equipment you need. For instance, a recipe may tell you to roll out the dough, but not state that you will need a rolling pin. It’s a good idea to get out all of the cooking equipment you’ll need before you begin (such as a mixing bowl, measuring cups, a whisk, etc). In restaurants, chefs always get their equipment and ingredients ready before they start cooking. They call this mise en place (pronounced MEEZ-ahn-plahse) meaning “everything in its place.”
3. Cooking Temperature and Time:
Most recipes give you an exact cooking temperature and time. For example, “bake the cookies at 350° for 11-13 minutes.” It’s important to scan the recipe and take note of any important instructions before beginning. If the recipe calls for using the oven, turn it on to the correct temperature before you start. To be sure your oven is at the right temperature, always “pre-heat” the oven 10-15 minutes before you use it.
The directions will explain in detail each step you need to take to prepare the recipe. And the steps are listed in the order they should be completed. Before you begin to follow any recipe, read it from start to finish. Some ingredients will mix better at room temperature, so let cold foods from the refrigerator warm-up before using them (unless the recipe says otherwise), but never longer than an hour.
The yield is the number of portions the recipe will make. It will tell you how many people you can serve, so you can increase or decrease the recipe depending on how many servings you need.
Patience and progress go hand-in-hand.
Following a recipe can be stressful for culinary-newbies, so have fun and relax! Slow down your pace and invite a mistake-friendly atmosphere into the kitchen so when mistakes happen (and they will!), your child will shake it off and try again.
Every time I cook with my kids I have to remind myself that they don’t have the experience I do (and even I am still learning!). You can’t run before you learn how to walk, and the same goes for cooking. Help your children by reviewing the recipe with them before they begin and identifying any steps that may require adult supervision.
Here are some tips for making it successful:
1. Have your kids do age-appropriate activities.
A toddler can dump ingredients, help pat down flour in the measuring cup, count along with you, etc. An elementary-aged child can do all the activities that a toddler can do, including measuring ingredients, reading directions, and using a butter knife to cut soft foods, etc.
An older child can do all of the above, plus they can work a hand-mixer or also use a paring knife to cut long foods such as carrots and zucchini, etc. Only you can gauge how much support you will need to give to your children as they cook.
2. Don’t force participation.
I don’t know many kids that don’t get excited to help make cookies, but pay attention to your child’s attention span during the process. A toddler may want to help but will quickly lose interest. This is perfectly normal and age-appropriate. Child development experts say that on average, a 4- or 5-year-old child should be able to stay focused on a task for 2-5 minutes multiplied by the year of their age. So, young kids should be able to focus between 8 and 25 minutes, possibly more, depending on the task.
3. Have fun and relax!
This is always easier said than done. Yes, messes will happen, and cooking together will usually take longer than it would have taken to cook alone (depending on your child’s experience). So in the beginning, chose a block of time where you aren’t in a rush, and be prepared to not get stressed about the order of your kitchen when all is said and done. Because remember, cooking time is bonding time.
When you cook with your kids, you are not only teaching them basic life skills, such as reading, math, and how to follow directions, you are also showing them how much they mean to you.
Teach your kids how to follow a recipe, and you will be helping your children create a foundation of success in the kitchen and throughout their entire lives. When you offer your time, love, and attention–whether it accompanies a successful dish, or not–your kids will remember the time you spent together forever!