When teaching a child to be able cook food without supervision, it can be a little tricky to decide where to begin. So much depends upon each child’s interest, motor skills, and maturity.
For us, it has been different with each child. I decided to begin building independence with my oldest when she nearing nine. It was partially out of necessity. I needed more help around the house and having someone who could make lunch on occasion has been invaluable.
As I have cooked, and taught cooking lessons, I have found it helpful to begin with foods that are multi-purpose and of course, simple. I also try to pick meals that can be cooked in various ways so my children can get used to different cooking methods.
Scrambled eggs in a fry pan are my first go-to food to teach my children to cook. They can be served at any meal and require little effort. Besides, what child does not enjoy cracking open an egg?
Grilled cheese (cooked on a gridle or in a frying pan) are not only simple, but a favorite of most of the children in our home.
Salmon Patties are a simple dinner most children can cook. I mix a can of salmon with two eggs and a dash or two of “everything bagel” seasoning. Salmon patties can be fried on a gridle or fry pan.
Taco Meat is incredibly simple if I have pre-mixed my own seasonings or use store-bought packets. All my child needs to do is cook up the meat in a frypan and add the seasonings. I can help with the sides.
Chicken and Rice is a family favorite. I can teach my children to cook rice on the stove or instant pot and then we add cooked chicken and seasoned salt.
Baked Potatoes are a simple side dish or meal that takes nothing but a good scrubbing, olive oil, and salt. This is a good introduction to using an oven for children.
Hot dogs are a no brainer for anyone. They can be cooked on a gridle, fry-pan, or in the oven.
French Toast is easily mastered by young chefs. It is basically eggs, milk, and bread and can be cooked on a gridle.
Basic Chili is a great, and more complex dish to introduce to a child. It requires little but cooked meat, cans of beans, tomato sauce, and seasonings. A child can have fun experimenting with different beans and meats with time.
Roast Chicken is far more simple than it sounds. Really, other than making sure the bird is cleaned out and salted, little has to be done but put it in a pan and in the oven for an hour. I do recommend a couple sturdy oven mitts to prevent any chance of burning if a child is independent enough to put the bird in a hot oven and take it out when done.
Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?
I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.
Cooking is also an importantfor ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.
I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.
Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.
So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?
Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.
I know I labored for hours, writhing in the pain of each contraction leading up the he birth of my first child. But despite the deathly pain, I only remember one thing most about that day. The moment I saw my sweet little girl’s round head and the immense joy that filled my soul as I gathered her in my arms for the first time. Every ounce of discomfort was completely worth it.
I rarely read the news anymore, but for the sake of a quick knowledge, I took a quick glance today. As one could imagine, I left my reading of current events with a heavy heart. The pain in this earth is incredible. Wars, famines, unrest, oppressions, death, disease, destruction, hatred, violence, storms, earthquakes are a few of them endless and increasing troubles I see in the news.
Then I reflected on conversations with friends this past week. Every one I know has major pains in their lives. People are hurting, struggling, and in distress everywhere I look.
Is this how things have always been? Or is it getting worse? I think everyone on earth would agree that they have never seen the world in the incredible turmoil we have now. My heart is weary of all the disturbing news. I feel as though the earth is crumbling apart beneath my feet.
Then Romans 8, like a plumb bob, slides down right before my quaking heart, bringing my faltering heart back in sink with truth.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25
I do remember contractions. Ouch! A wave of pain surges through the body, then I breathe a moment, as I prepare for the next pains. The pains surge closer and closer together, almost overlapping in intensity as the birth of my precious little one closes in.
Several thousand years ago, a birth was taking place in a small Bethlehem stable. Mary, in the throws of pain of labor, held the promise of the child in her mind. Struggling for that moment when the King would be born!
Just as a woman giving birth, the whole earth is in labor. Waves of pain are pulsing closer and closer together, hardly giving mankind a moment to catch his breath as the time of the King’s return approaches. Creation groans. Humans, who are without hope, lapse into fear and despair.
A smile spreads across my soul. That means ONE thing! My King is coming! My heart bursts with joy as I consider the joy set before me. The earth is preparing for the birth of a Kingdom! Yes, I know much more pain is ahead, but I also see the other end of this mess we call earth. I see glory, fulfillment, and a King sitting upon His throne, ruling the world in perfect harmony.
I suddenly see that I am living in one giant advent season…my heart ought to be in a constant state of rejoicing and hope of my coming King. The despair flees my soul as the brightness of hope soars in.
As I share my joyful ponderings with my husband, he gently reminds me of our Savior who walked through pain, His face set on the joy of our redemption.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Romans 12:2
Pain must come before the joy of holding a new life. I can set that joy set before my heart and, see this troubled world through the eyes of expectant hope.
“Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16: 20-22
As I wait, watching the world writhe with pain, my heart is free to ache for those without hope, but it is not free to be troubled. My heart is free to long for an end to this troube, but not free to despair. My heart, is free to persevere in its calling, but not free to seek safety and flee earthly troubles. I am secure in the hope set before me and I can endure, with God’s ongoing grace, all that will take place in my time, with hope, joy, and wonder. My King is coming!
JOY TO THE WORLD
Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room; And heav’n and nature sing, And heav’n and nature sing. And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns Let men their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy Repeat the sounding joy
No more let sin and sorrowsgrow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness. And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders of His love.
I plugged the three, hundredth string of twinkling lights into the middle of the Christmas tree. Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. My heart was full! Listening to songs of Christmas worship and pondering the magnificent and grace filled birth of my precious Savior! He has come! Suddenly the three-hundred twinkling lights I had spun on the tree didn’t seem like enough! How could I ever put enough lights on the tree to express my heartfelt joy of the Savior’s incarnation?
I have been told since I was a little girl that Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree or the food on the table. Christmas is not about the lights or the stockings. From stories like The Grinch by dear old Dr. Seuss to Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the heart of Christmas is displayed as more dear than all the decorations, gifts, food, and traditions we enroll in our Christmas festivities.
But what is the heart of Christmas? Secular stories might leave that answer to the reader’s imagination. Generosity, benevolence, joy, and peace are often spoken of by both secular and Christian’s during the Christmas season. But is any one of those what fires our souls during the Christmas season?
My heart overflowing, as it meditates on the holy, righteous, merciful God, and Him who lowered Himself to my pitiful human level for the sake of my redemption. The fullness of time had come, what the earth groaned for had arrived. Healing of what was broken was about to begin.
The Christmas spirit is a leapingspirit; much like that of baby John. Luke 1:41 “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
My soul is a leaping soul as it ponders my Savior and His coming to earth. I resonate with John as my soul literally boils with joy! This is Whom my soul knows and loves! He came! What preciousness there is in setting aside a month of the year to worship my Savior as I ponder His incarnation!
God’s own beloved Son, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Phil. 2:6-7. This is not something to be taken for granted, pushed aside or downplayed! I am so grateful our culture takes the month of December to focus on that incredible, divine outpouring of God’s grace to us.
I added another string of lights to the tree….
How often I had allowed myself to feel guilty about our family’s extravagant celebration of Christmas…gifts, decorations, food…. But now, I feel no remorse. My leaping spirit is free. The celebration takes place in my heart, and if my extravagance in the celebration within finds its joy in lights, food, and gifts that serve as reminders and ongoing outpourings of my inadequate celebration of Christ’s birth. No one ought bear no remorse for that.
It is very freeing to simply worship in all things. I can do that with a tree loaded with a thousand lights, or with nothing but a small candle and some holly on my dining room table. I can worship Christ through the giving of gifts, expressing love toward others by giving extravagantly, or simplifying my gifts to home-made keepsakes.
Simplifying the Christmas season does not necessarily focus one’s attention on Christ any more than extravagance does. One either finds complete joy in Christ or she does not, regardless of if it is Christmas or not.
It is in my heart where worship takes place. And through that heart I can choose to keep Christmas in a simple manner or in a brilliant way. I can take joy in a simple string of lights on a tabletop tree, or in a ten foot tree decked with bulbs and lights.
What my heart has come to understand, is that there is no right or wrong in how a one celebrates Christmas. The point is that the joy of my Savior thrives within my heart all year, every year.
Ebenezer Scrooge proclaims at the realization that Christmas is not an event but a spirit of the heart: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” Charles Dickens
So may my heart leap at every thought of Christ’s incarnation, at Christmas, every day, and all year long! And may I not shut out the joy I have in my Savior.
“How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Mary’s Magnificat: Luke 1:47