Tonight, my 3 year old daughter helped me with almost every aspect of cooking dinner. That is, everything but steps where heat was involved. She felt SO BIG. And dinner was great.
First, we seasoned some pork chops and got them into the oven. She helped sprinkle the seasonings, and helped choose some herbs to use.
While we were doing that, we had some red potatoes boiling on the stove (about 10 minutes).
She doesn’t love potatoes (other than sweet potatoes) but she was really happy to help with their preparation. Anneliese has her own kitchen within ours, with kid-sized tools, and my oldest sister gave her some more kitchen tools for Christmas, including this wonderful wavy blade (in red).
- So we pulled out the new chopper, reviewed blade safety (don’t look at my hands in the photo please), and went to work. First, we cut a bunch of Kalamata olives while the oven preheated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Then, I cut the (pre boiled for 10 minutes) potatoes in half, and Anneliese used her blade to cut each half into chunks, and slid them into the bowl. (In this picture she’s probably saying something along the lines of, “You asked me to help you cook dinner, because you didn’t know what to do. You didn’t know how to cook dinner, so you needed me to help you. I am helping you cook dinner with my knife.”)
- Once the potatoes and olives were all in the bowl, I drizzled some olive oil in, and stirred a little. We dumped everything onto a baking dish lined with parchment (the parchment probably isn’t necessary for this, but Anneliese chose it… she knows we are huge parchment fans over here).
- Then, Anneliese sprinkled feta cheese all over the top, and helped me with the rosemary.
- I added the sea salt (she can get a bit over-zealous with salt), and tossed the pan in the oven.
- Normally, I would cook these for 45 minutes or so, flipping the potatoes around with a spatula every 20 minutes or so, until crispy all over. Tonight we didn’t have that much time, so we baked for 20 minutes followed by a few minutes of broiling. I recommend the longer cooking method, but this works in a pinch.
The potatoes were delicious (of course) and Anneliese was still talking about how I didn’t know how to cook dinner so she had to help me (I did NOT put that into her head) when she crawled into bed hours later.
Kids CAN cook. Do you involve your littles in the kitchen? Starting slowly is simple. Kids can:
- Pour or dump pre-measured ingredients into a bowl, mixer, or blender.
- Push buttons on the blender, stove, microwave, etc (with your instruction).
- Stir (especially if you use a much bigger bowl than necessary, to allow splash insurance).
- Taste the ingredients, or whatever you’re making, as you make it (depending on what it is).
- Smell spices and learn to identify them by name.
- Use cookie cutters for rolled-out dough.
- Watch you. Just be sure to explain what you’re doing, so they still feel involved.
When those helpful tasks are second nature, it’s time to move on to more complicated tasks, like:
- Measuring ingredients.
- Whisking/beating (try an old fashioned egg beater with a crank!)
- Transferring batter to muffin cups.
- Sprinkling ingredients evenly (harder than you’d think!)
- Folding in ingredients gently
- And basically anything else you might do in the kitchen, of course taking care with heat and sharps.
Those bulleted lists are by no means comprehensive. Just starters to get your gears going.
I hope you make our crispy Greek potatoes, but more importantly, I hope this post inspires you to get your kids in the kitchen with you, and show them how to infuse culinary creations with love and care.