Does your child cook independently? Montessori families often teach young children to cook things like eggs pretty early, so this isn't a new thought. But just in case you haven't tried it yet, or your child is still young, I want to put it out there. There are a ton of benefits to teaching your child to cook, and when they are ready, they can cook independently. There is no need to rush or push your child, but if you involve your child in cooking from the start, their independence will build slowly.
This morning Otto, mostly independently (I helped set up, gave some verbal prompts and made sure no shell went in) made scrambled eggs.
First, I want to say that cooking and practical life skills at this age are just as important as literacy or numeracy skills. If you are actively teaching your child letters, numbers, counting, and singing the alphabet, make sure you are covering practical life skills. Cooking independently helps the child develop:
- concentration, focus & achieving flow
- fine motors skills
- ability to follow a sequence - we can slowly increase the number of steps
- knowledge of cause & effect, including natural consequences
- skills relevant to the entire process of setting up, cooking and cleaning up, follow-through
- knowledge around food, what goes with what, what things taste like, and what goes into simple recipes.
- basic skills around food safety - hygiene - washing hands, temperature control - what needs to go in the fridge, what needs to be cooked before eating like eggs.
We are using a mini electric skillet. Available in Target AU for $20. Our stove top is gas, and I'm not comfortable with my child cooking with gas independently. The mini skillet is small and manageable for the young child, and we are able to use it on the child's food prep table, which means he can go and get ingredients, wash his hands and move around without getting up and down from the counter. This size is also good for my teen to use to make a quick snack.
Let's see what independent cooking looked like in our home on a Sunday morning.
FYI my child does not like cracking eggs. I don't force it but try to take some of the drama out of it. Often when it's time to crack the eggs, I make myself absent or busy, and he ends up just doing it himself.
I always encourage my children to crack eggs into a small bowl first to make sure there is no shell before putting it in with the other ingredients, especially if the meal is being shared.
I like to use clear dishware with young children. It increases their visibility, they can see exactly what is going on in the bowl, and it also helps them to pour slowly as they can see the ingredients move when pouring.
Knife skills are also really great for children. It helps to develop coordination, concentration, strength, and risk-taking. The child knows this knife is sharp, he knows not to be silly with it, and he uses his judgement to use it safely to chop the chives.
Don't dismiss the simple things; pouring uses lots of important skills that can prepare the hands for fine motor work, like holding a pencil or using scissors - things that are considered important school skills.
Real whisking, not stirring, is hard and requires coordination.
This skillet is small, it only makes around two serves.
Yep, cleaning up is important too.
Cooking with a mini skillet teaches the child about risk; the child can touch the handle, but the pan is hot, the handle heats up, and with lots of use, the child gets used to this. The benefit of using a larger (adult-size) electric skillet is that it is heat adjustable, and your child can use it on low heat. My child has also learnt how to turn the skillet on, wait for it to heat up, and turn it off - lots of life skills.
While my child is making the eggs, I make toast and get the avocado ready.
Yum, breakfast is ready!
Want some other ideas for cooking in a mini skillet? How about:
- french toast
- fried egg
- stir fry
- fried rice
- mini Quesadilla
- burger patties (an adult will need to check they are cooked all the way through).
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