My 8-year-old son LOVES to cook. He loves to bake, to sauté, to mix, to flip, to fold, to crack, to sift, to dump, to scoop…basically anything related to cooking. When he was five, he asked for a spatula for Christmas. After opening all of his Christmas presents, he fell asleep on the floor, holding that sacred spatula. It is still dear to him. Everyone in the house has to ask permission before using it.
This amazing little boy made an apple pie (crust and all) and a lasagna from scratch last month. All. By. Himself. He’s not a child cooking savant.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a smart kid, but there is only one reason why he can do this at age 8—because we let him cook.
*The finished apple pie
Our son didn’t start out making four-course meals. He started by helping mommy. When he was still in a high chair, he helped me cook. Hand-over-hand, he helped me stir, cut, and scoop. As he got older, I slowly decreased my assistance. By the time he was five, he had made breakfast and lunch for his little brother and sister. (Disclaimer: He asks to do this because he loves to cook. I reap the benefits of his interest).
Letting a child have control in the kitchen can be terrifying.
They may get cut, burned, scaled, or generally impaled in someway. They might make a huge mess that you have to clean. Okay, there’s no might here. They are going to make a huge mess. Little hands. Big cooking utensils. It’s inevitable. I realized that most of my objections to my son being in the kitchen were selfish. I didn’t want to help him learn to do something that I could do faster. I didn’t want to clean up the messes. I wanted the food to look nice and not like a child cooked it.
I’m not advocating that every child needs to become a chef. My second son has no interest in it. I am saying that sometimes a parent needs to put aside their own fears and selfish objections to allow them to explore their interests. My second son loves art. Even though I cringe, I have to allow him time and space to create. When everything in me wants to tell my child no, I often have to remind myself that a little extra time, patience, and mess is probably worth the joy experienced by my kids.