Is Your Child the Next Big Masterchef?

7 easy ways to encourage little sous-chefs to learn the art of cooking.

Shraddha Varma

There are learning and infotainment apps galore to keep your child occupied but when it comes to life skills and fending for oneself they will only learn from you, their parents. The ability to cook and manage the kitchen is one such life skill and also one that not many parents focus on. The lockdown is the right time to introduce the wondrous world of food to kids. If executed well, teaching your kids how to cook will not only help you bond but also teach them also prepare them for adulthood.

We turned to some of our favourite chefs and influencers, for some pro tips on cooking with kids.

Make them feel ‘responsible’

What to stuff in the paratha today? What toppings to go on the breakfast omelette? Let them choose and measure ingredients, and anchor an important step in the cooking procedure—the more responsible they feel in the process, the more rewarding the experience it will be for everyone, believes TV host Amrita Raichand, who has a 13-year-old boy, Agastya. Mother’s Menu host chef Shazia Khan, as a mother of two, nods in agreement and says, “There is a sense of achievement when they sit to eat. I guess they relish dishes more because their hard work has paid off.”

But First, Basics!

Don’t pull out complicated recipes in the beginning or you’ll never see your kids enter the kitchen ever again, says Khan. Start with the basics and gradually move on to more elaborate dishes. While chef Khan’s sons enjoy baking and manage to do so on their own, she has been getting them to learn the basic dal and sabzi. 

Food writer and consultant Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal believes teaching kids how to cook everyday recipes is essential and she doesn’t prefer the ‘let’s-play-a-game’ philosophy. “Tomorrow, if they are stuck in a situation like this [Coronavirus lockdown], they must be able to whip up 20-25 recipes to survive,” she says. “I involve my children in the day-to-day cooking by allotting tasks. They know how to wash rice, clean leafy vegetables and, recently, I taught my daughter how to cook rice in a microwave.”

Cook Healthy

With childhood obesity becoming a major concern these days, it’s important to educate and motivate our kids to make healthier choices in food. While one can’t completely take them off junk food, fashion and lifestyle blogger Shrima Rai, mommy to two boys - Vihaan and Shivansh, prefers keeping a mix of healthy ingredients/dishes and junk. “So, oatmeal cookies are sweetened with jaggery instead of regular sugar. Also, I believe we (as parents) must cook something they really love to eat and will enjoy as an end product.”

Give them age-appropriate tasks

The best way to encourage your child’s interest and excitement for cooking is to assign age-appropriate tasks to. Let the younger ones (mainly, 3 to 5-year-olds) wash fruits and veggies, mix ingredients, or wipe up the table tops, while older children can crack eggs, measure ingredients, and polish their motor skills in the process. Meanwhile, the teenagers can take on more complicated tasks such as chopping vegetables, boiling or sautéing ingredients, heating food in the microwave, or cooking an easy dish from scratch—not without adult supervision, of course. In chef Khan’s kitchen, her younger son helps her cook rotis, while she rolls them and her older one makes sandwiches and salads.

Chef Ajay Chopra distributes the kitchen tasks as per the age of his two boys and, of course, what they enjoy the most. “For instance, when making chocolate pancakes, I let my elder son crack the eggs, while the little one enjoys sifting the flour and sugar,” he says. Watch SodaBottleOpenerwala restaurant’s country head chef Irfan Pabaney’s quarantine cooking videos and you’ll notice the same. In fact, recently, his teenage daughter Aalika baked chocolate chip and banana muffins on her own, while her daddy dearest captured it all on camera.

Appreciate, appreciate, and appreciate!

Chef Chopra feels: “Kids need to understand that their actions do make a difference. Also, that their parents are noticing, and pitching in is good. Hence, you appreciate the work they’ve done.” This also boosts their self-esteem and motivates  them to learn more and absorb better. For understanding this better, watch chef cook with his sons on Instagram every evening of this Coronavirus lockdown. 

Let them mess around

“Emphasising on cleanliness is important but when cooking with kids, you need take it easy. Ingredients will spill, clothes will be soiled, and the result may be slightly different from what you expected. Embrace the chaos,” explains chef Chopra.

Keep them engaged

When chef Ranveer Brar cooks with his son Ishaan, he likes to keep him engaged with interesting food facts and also encourages the kiddo to ask questions. It’s Brar’s way to let Ishaan’s curiosity lead to new recipes, ingredients, and cooking methods.

On the other hand, chef Chopra tells his children about where the ingredients come from, whose recipe it is, and how lucky they are to have food on their table. That way, they can appreciate what they eat and also, make informed choices. 

Banner image: Chef Ajay Chopra
Inside images: Shutterstock


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