I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe it is only 22 days until Christmas, and Hanukkah starts at sundown this Saturday. I love Christmas, not just the presents, although those are nice. I love the food, the baking, the cooking, the closeness of family, the mixing of family and cooking or baking.
Christmas is a holiday where the entire family tries to get together. The sweet smells that waft from the kitchen letting all within sniffing distance know that delicious food is being prepared. If you have kids, then this is the perfect time to get them in on the Christmas cooking craze.
It’s just not true that kids don’t want anything to do with the kitchen. In fact, kids love to cook, and it is never too early for them to start. How do you think so many great chefs got their start in the cooking world?
In fact my granddaughters, Courtney 8, Eilidh 5, and Mhairi 2, have been helping me in the kitchen since they were big enough to stand on a chair, with small tasks like stirring or pouring in the ingredients. This is a picture of Eilidh at age 2 1/2 helping me make a pumpkin roll for my cookbook, Gluten-Free Get-Togethers.
In fact, Eilidh now age 5 helped me make the Thanksgiving pies. We had a blast.
When you invite them into the kitchen and give them something to do, kids will jump at the chance to cook or bake with you.
Teach your children that no matter what you are cooking (or baking) in the kitchen, the key here is cleanliness. Also if you are cooking and baking gluten-free, make sure you teach your children about cross-contamination. You can read a post a wrote about cross-contamination here.
In preparation, buy your child their own apron and don’t forget yours. (Note we did not have ours on and we both ended up with powdered sugar all over our fronts). Aprons will protect their clothing, and also give them a place to wipe their hands. Remember to keep plenty of paper towels and hand soap available also because they will be washing their hands quite a bit. (In leiu of paper towels, I keep kitchen hand towels or bar mops on hand).
Baking is the easiest thing to start with, because baking involves most of the work to be done away from the stove. Let your kids cut their culinary teeth on breakfast. Biscuits are a good place to start because they can learn basic skills and not get into trouble for making a mess.
If your kids are old enough to read, have them read through the whole recipe before they start. If they are too young to read the recipe for themselves, read through it with them and explain the importance of knowing what all the steps of the recipe are.
Then, as you go from step to step, explain to your kids what you are about to do or ask them if they remember what comes next.
If you are cooking, set up your work area on the kitchen table or the counter if your kids are tall enough. Let them create there, while you prep the stove for the food.
For any recipe, begin by gathering your ingredients and utensils. It will feel like a cooking show; your kids will love that. Show them how to do each step and then let them take over from there.
I mentioned biscuits before. Anything that goes into the oven is a good start for kids:
- Christmas cookies
- Breakfast casserole
- Dinner meats
With the dinner meat, you will have to help them carry it to the stove, but they can pour the brown sugar glaze (if you like that) onto the ham, season the outside of the turkey, sprinkle pecans on the sweet potato casserole and many other small tasks.
Your kids will get the hang of baking and stovetop cooking with a little assistance. The holidays are a relaxing and jovial time to let your kids begin cooking with you. Teach them the basics of hygiene, preparation and creating and keep it fun, so they will want to cook all of the time.