Cooking with Children

Lucia licking the spoon jpeg gf.jpgReading the title of this blog you may be forgiven for thinking I am thinking of using "children" as ingredients.  No, what I mean is involving children in the cooking.  The reason for bringing this up is that I recently did a dem for one of the local coeliac groups near Poole.  There were lots of young children  in the audience with their parents which was great and watching them fidget and looking a little bored made me think I should get them involved.  No sooner had I asked for volunteers when I found myself mobbed by lots of tiny youngsters wanting to do everything. 

Having two young children of my own I am used to cooking with little ones and I managed to let them all have a go at using the electric mixer, pouring in the milk, mixing in the milk, adding the flour etc. At one point we had a long line of children waiting to coat their "snickerdoodles" with sugar.  It was excellent and they were so engaged and so eager to take part. I was a little worried that perhaps in all the enthusiasm I'd forget to put in an ingredient or that we might have cookie batter all over the walls, but it was all fine in the end and everything came out to plan. 

Afterwards several of the parents came up and commented that they rarely did cooking with their children at home.  This is very  understandable as cooking with children is messy and can mean that a 5 minute task takes a good hour including all the tidying up afterwards.  But the benefits really do outweigh the downside.  If you can get your child to participate in the cooking, chances are they will be interested in eating the results. 

There is a knack for to cooking with kids of course and this is to try and do a little of the boring stuff ahead of time, so that you keep them focused on the fun stuff.  From my experience they love weighing things out, adding things to the bowl, mixing by hand or with an electric mixer and licking the bowl.  They also like being given a specific task like making small balls of cookie dough and placing them on the baking trays.  They like icing cupcakes and then decorating them. They like setting the timer for the oven and tasting things as you go along.

My youngest daughter Lucia, aged almost 3, helped me make lunch on Sunday. She helped make the marinade for the chicken and she loved using the garlic press. We bashed out the chicken fillets with a rolling pin whilst singing a little song and then we went out to the garden and I let her cut some rosemary and some bay leaves which she added to the marinade along with some yoghurt, salt, pepper and some lemon juice. We then made some tortilla dough together and then we took turns making them with the new tortilla press.

Lunch was served at 4 pm but it was delicious and there was not a scrap left. Both children licked their platters clean which made the whole experience worthwhile. So while cooking with children is not something you will do every day, I would encourage you to make time to cook together. 

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