Thankfully, unlike last year, a snow day is novel in 2016 – but that doesn’t mean that after the kids have built a snowman and gotten all rosy-cheeked from running around outside, they won’t get bored. There’s no lack of good suggestions for how to keep them busy and away from screens, but today, let’s talk about one of my very favorite snow day activities: cooking together!
In 2011, a poll showed that 28% of Americans don’t know how to cook, and a Daily Mail poll the next year claimed that fully one-third of British college students didn’t even know how to boil an egg. Yikes! Giving kids the info they need to eat healthy today will help them make smarter eating decisions as adults… and save money on takeout, too.
Along with cooking being an essential life skill that they’re going to need when they get out of the house, cooking with you sneaks in plenty of learning: when they follow a recipe, kids practice math skills, and learn patience and the importance of following directions. And it’s a great way to bond, make time to talk, and create some memories.
A snow day is the perfect time to introduce the idea of cooking together to your kid simply because you have time: each step of a recipe will take longer if your child is doing it, and you don’t want to be tempted to just grab items and get it done faster, since kids need to learn each skill by trying it. This doesn’t mean you can’t put some finishing touches on when they’re done, of course – I remember when my mom first taught me how to make our family’s unique pancake recipe*, and she’d give the batter a once-over for lumps before letting me pour it into the frying pan. The key is to build “I did it myself!” confidence, while simultaneously making sure that the results are yummy.
You’ll want to choose age-appropriate recipes and tasks, of course. Here are a few tips I found on the Kids Cook Monday website:
- Toddlers: They’ll love being involved, and getting to eat their science experiment! This is also a great way to get them to try and eat something new. They can stir items like vinaigrettes, tear up lettuce and herbs, squeeze lemons and limes, and squeeze, grind, and mash items. Also, at this age, a Little Partners Learning Tower is a great tool to help them reach the counter!
- Ages 4-5 and up: This will depend to some extent on their motor skills and focus; you know your kid best, so judge accordingly.
- Ages 6-9 and up: With better fine motor skills, they’ll be able to take on more detailed work; remind them to watch their fingers when they’re grating, peeling, or chopping. Once again, their ability to work independently will depend on their skills and maturity.
- Ages 10 and up: Assess what they can handle in terms of safety; once you’re satisfied that they can be trusted not to burn the house down or hurt themselves, they’re old enough to start cooking on their own.
Another important reason to choose a day like a snow day, when you have ample time, is because kids make messes! Jaimie at Simplekids.net suggests heading off the mess at the pass by making sure kids wear aprons to protect their clothing, and using larger bowls when you know kids will be stirring ingredients (the smaller the bowl, the more likely you are to get batter on the floor), but ultimately, you need to take a deep breath and accept that messes happen. Jaimie writes:
“I know… this is hard. It’s hard for me, I’ll admit. The only kind of mess that really doesn’t ever bother me is art-related mess. I’m not a big fan of cleaning the kitchen, so more mess in that room certainly adds to my stress level. And I understand, too, that when you’re extremely short on time, the last thing you want is more cleaning to do. But this kind of mess is temporary. The more skilled your kids become in the kitchen, the less messy the results.”
It all goes back to building skills: as kids learn how to cook and how to clean, they’ll be able to do more and more… and eventually, they will be able to make YOU dinner. Which is good for everybody!
Check out these roundups of kid-friendly recipes:
* As far as I can tell, it’s closest to a very simplified version of the Dutch Baby or German pancake, but fried in butter on the stovetop. Cover it with mixed sugar and cinnamon and serve it up with a tall glass of milk – YUM.