We decided a long time ago that we wanted our children to leave home knowing how to cook 10 meals (I think I left home knowing how to cook 10 different kinds of cookies, plus Hamburger Helper. Hmmm. I could have been a little more responsible, even though my parents gave me ample opportunity to learn.) Wouldn't it be nice if our kids could make a dinner with ease, before venturing out on their own?
We love it as a math supplement. And as a chemistry supplement.
They get a lot of practice and experience just being at home while we cook. They'll often ask to help, and they're becoming more independent all the time.
My policy for snacks is to try to eat fruits or vegetables at these times, as we are more likely to eat healthy foods when we're hungry and there aren't other options. It also makes meals less stressful for me, because I know they're getting in some useful foods in between. My oldest has a high metabolism and having a little snack between work sessions really helps her learn.
I offer the challenge, to pick a fruit or vegetable, but they are often left with deciding what we'll eat. That way, they get practice making healthy choices. They also help prepare it. I believe in teaching kids how to manage risks, so they are chopping and simmering right alongside me.
Making Stone Soup
Sometimes cooking projects are a natural extension of our other schoolwork, like baking "Viking Bread" to go with an history segment, or baking gingerbread boys, to go with something we read.
(Don't you love how decorating cookies moves swiftly from an art form to "well, I really ought to find a way to maximize the number of toppings that will fit on my ration of cookies ...")
Making blueberry syrup to go with Blueberries for Sal
[C.] invented this recipe from vegetables and herbs found in the backyard:
She calls it "Onion Soup." Very crunchy.
We've also embarked on cooking projects for entrepreneurial reasons:
Making No-Bake Cookies to sell to neighbors.
Our cookbooks, however, are the most deliberate way we teach cooking. Every other Wednesday, one of the older two kids (ages 7 and 5) makes dinner for the family. That's only once a month for each of them, so they consider it special time. They are responsible for as much of the meal as they are capable. They read the recipe, and I allow mistakes. They also choose their recipes (their favorites from our family collection.) Once we collect 10 recipes (I store them in page protectors and a cheap pocket folder), we'll make them over again. In ten years, I imagine they'll know the recipes almost by heart. Upgrading recipes to ones they prefer is fine. So far, my kids have learned how to make barbecue ribs, and sushi, and waffles, broccoli casserole, and chimichangas ... and the list keeps growing. They are always so proud to serve dinner to the family. I admit, I have some pretty big helpers.