Articles upon articles and books upon books say that cooking with your children is a wonderful opportunity to teach and bond with them. Including children in the meal preparation process gives them a sense of accomplishment. They can take pride in assisting to prepare a family dinner. They are more likely to be adventurous eaters.
In fact, meal prep is a large part of the “care for the environment” principal of Montessori education. The children at Ike’s school from the toddler communities and up take an active role in preparing the snacks and lunches eaten at school. Children are given real cooking utensils and real jobs to help in the cooking process, including tiny little toddler-sized knives to cut vegetables with.
This independence that Montessori principals are rooted in are what attracted me to the eductation style. I do believe that children learn more by doing actual work rather than simulated play or observing someone else work.
The experts claim that you can begin to include your kids in the kitchen at any age. So, Ike at 17 months does help me with the food management at home. Ike usually accompanies me to the grocery store. He always has. When he was very young, he taste-tested the veggies that got too close to his face as he rode along in the Mei Tai tied to my hip. When he was a little older he helped by hanging on to products from the front of the shopping cart. He seemed to have an affinity for carby type things now instead of the vegetables he adored in the carrier. Now he is happy to help me push the shopping cart, although he cannot see to steer, he’s fine with just plugging away and barreling through any obstacles that may be in his way…people, other carts, products, shelves.
In the kitchen, Ike typically prefers to stand just between me and the food I am preparing. He can be entertained in the kitchen though. He likes to spread things on toast and crackers with his little toddler butter knife, which is more like a tiny spatula but don’t tell him. He also loves to close the refrigerator and reorganize the pantry for me. He’s very interested in what is bubbling or sizzling away on the stove, so I try to give him a peak as often as he likes. He checks out the various pots and pans and I tell him what everything is and that he cannot touch it because it’s hot. “Hot” he repeats and proceeds to lean his face into the steam.
So come on over to our house for supper, Ike’s cooking. What’s on the menu?
Cheerios delicately sautéed with a potato masher!