We are the type of family that does most things together. So its only natural that cooking is one of them. Most things are done as a team( 2-4 people) or as a family. Cooking is something I have always done with the children. Whether I was making a large diner or PBJ sandwiches, they were right there. Usually saying, "Can I help". So I let them.
Kids of all ages can learn. Even if only by observation, or slight participation. Many parents shoo their children from the kitchen. I do shoo, but usually just the non assigned helpers. I try to teach them 2 at a time. If I had a Paula Dean kitchen, maybe we could take on more volunteers. Small children can learn to help gather supplies. This not only teaches how to cook, but helps them learn what things in the kitchen are. They can identify ladles, spatulas, measuring spoons, and even ingredients, eggs, milk, cheese etc. They also learn where things go, by knowing where they came from. And are able to help clean up and putting things away.
Teaching children easy recipes can start as a preschooler. Cookies, pancakes, oatmeal, and such are simple step meals that they can help accomplish. Even mixing the ingredients for a casserole. Children love to mix things.
By about 5 -7 they can do more things and more independently. A 5-7 year old can make sandwiches, flip pancakes, and even prepare dinner meals, supervised. Teaching them to recognize when noodles are done, how to use a can opener etc. These are all skills that can be helpful to you and beneficial to them. My children also feel a sense of pride and belonging when they know they have contributed to the meals we eat.
An older child can do even more. My 8 year old makes omelette's, bakes cakes, she is able to prepare most meals with just a little supervision. She loves to cook. My 10 & 12 year olds can make most meals independently.
The meals on our monthly menu list were almost all prepared by them. I assist where needed.
I have also been asked for some recipes. The breads the kids make are on these small printable recipe cards.
Our meals for the day are
Oatmeal for breakfast. Boil 6 cups water, add 6 cups quick oats and put on low. Stir for a few min and serve. We usually add fruit to it or cinnamon. ( 7 and up can prepare this meal independently)
Lunch will be leftover spaghetti and breads. Spaghetti is also easy. Boil the water, add noodles drain and mix in sauce. ( again 7 and up can prepare this meal, younger ones (7 &8) may need help draining water) The bread was independently made by Quinten (10).
Dinner is noodle helper. Brown 2 lbs ground beef. Boil 2 lbs elbow macaroni and drain. Mix with a can of peas and BBQ sauce. This will be prepared by Abigail (8) independently except the draining of the grease and boiled water.
For dessert we will have lemon cupcakes. These will be made by Olivia (4) . We assign meal preparation on our chore chart and today his her and Abigail's day to prepare meals. Olivia can gather all ingredients, mix them as I instruct ( I will crack the eggs). She will grease the pans and scoop the batter into each muffin tin. She will also help put in oven and will set the timer.
The children all enjoy preparing food. Its something they have grown up with but its never to late to start and never to early to begin. Waiting till they are able, is preventing them from being able. Find age appropriate meals they can begin to learn on. As they become more comfortable with the tasks, they will look for more to do. And one thing we should always keep in mind, sometimes the bread will be flat, sometimes, the rice will burn and sometimes you just have to choke it down. Making cooking mistakes isnt' limited to children and mistakes help us to do better the next time.