There’s so much in the media today about schools not teaching children to cook and the fact that the next generation (not to mention this one) are losing an awareness of the basics surrounding healthy meal planning and preparation. I totally get this – schools should be doing much more than they are. Use some of that green space to grow some peas, encourage after school cooking clubs, sell them apples instead of Haribos at the school disco. But at the same time, shouldn’t we as parents also be responsible for teaching our children these basic life skills? How often have we read a book to our child compared to read a recipe with them?
Do we make food one of the focuses of the time we spend with our children or do we treat it as something that needs doing quickly so that we can get back to the important activities?
I think that basic food skills are just as important as learning to read, ride a bike and learning the value of saving money. Over the past few months I’ve been making a conscience effort to begin to teach my four year-old son Milo and 6 year-old daughter Charlie how to plan, shop for and cook healthy meals. I’ve learned to:
- Turn the small things into big things. If you’re going to buy them a chopping board or a knife, make a special trip and make a big deal out of it. Let them choose ones in their favourite colours. We had some odd looks at TK Maxx when I let them purchase two small, but very sharp, knives, but that just added to the excitement that they were getting something other adults didn’t think they were old enough to have.
- Expect enthusiasm and be surprised at the skill. No one will spend quite as much time chopping a tomato as a child with his own knife. The precision that goes into it is amazing. Just don’t expect that salad to be done in five minutes.
- Don’t expect perfection. Children are little people and they will approach things in their own way. You may not think that green onions should be sliced lengthwise, but they might!
- Don’t ever, ever leave them alone. At such a young age, you’ve got to watch them like hawks so that they gradually learn not to put fingers under knives or just suddenly lose interest and wander off to the lego with a knife.
Give it a go – it might not be something that you want to do at every mealtime, but by starting now one or two days a week you’ll be building up skills like any other and eventually you’ll be getting some valuable help in the kitchen!