Teach Kids to Cook – Six Meals by Sixteen

Now is the perfect time to teach kids to cook. Whatever age, whatever stage – do it now. It’s a life skill that will be with them forever.

My kids have been “helping” in the kitchen since they were little. Look how cute! But man, those were messy days – it’s much easier to do things yourselves and let them play. But it’s such an important skill. Stick with it and enjoy.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGrating, chopping, mashing, baking, jamming, washing and toasting – they’ve had a hand in just about everything.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last night, Aidan (12) made his first full meal.  He was the head chef and I was his sous chef. Yahoo, it’s less messy and more helpful every time!

teach kids to cook, chopping onions
Aidan chopping onions at age 12.

Here he is with his swim goggles chopping the onions. It’s his thing – no problem! Maybe I should have told him about the pre-chopped onions in the freezer? Oh, well chopping onions is an important skill to learn!  While he was chopping those, he had me chopping carrots and celery (our meat sauce always includes lots of veggies). It was great hanging out with him and observing his expressions as we taste tested the sauce and tried to figure out what to add to make it taste just right. Have you ever tried explaining Worcestershire sauce to someone?

teach kids to cook spag sauce
Aidan’s ground pork & veggie spaghetti sauce.

His spaghetti dinner was a great success!  A couple more times and we can count that as one of his “Six Meals by 16”. He’s already great at barbecuing and making grilled cheese.

Lorraine Stevenson’s recent article in the Manitoba Co-operator described the Ontario Federation of Agrictulture’s “6×16″campaign encouraging parents to get serious about teaching kids how to cook.  The idea is similar to the plea made by Jamie Oliver in his 2010 TED Talk and by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign.  All of them remind us that we as parents are the most important role model to our kids when it comes to food. We are the ones that have the greatest ability and responsibility to teach them everything from planning, budgeting and preparing healthy meals. They suggest that by the time kids are 16 they know how to make at least 6 meals from scratch.

I’ve always intended to teach my kids to cook and have been getting them to do bits and pieces here and there.  I like the idea of having a clear target – 6 meals by age 16.  My kids are 10 and 12.  I think that’s doable – even though it’ll take a little convincing to get them to see this as a wonderful learning opportunity they will cherish for the rest of their lives! Heck, it’ll take me a bit of prodding to actually plan “teaching nights”.

To get started, we discussed what meals they want to add to their current repertoire of grilled cheese, KD, scrambled eggs, cookies and toast. Here’s what they came up with

Spaghetti and Sauce
Farmer Sausage and Perogies with Green Peas
Pickerel Dinner
Homemade Hamburgers with Veggies and Dip
Homemade Garden Soup
Tortilla Roll Ups
Bratwurst, Spaetzle & Green Beans
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Based on Aidan’s spaghetti dinner, this might actually turn out to be a pretty awesome experience for all of us.  Maybe, if all goes well, they’ll be making dinner every night by the time their both 16!  Whoo hee, wouldn’t that be nice. – Hey, a lady can dream, can’t she!

What do you think of the 6 by 16 plan?  What meals would your kids put on the list?

Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener. 

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