When the kids were little, I would keep them busy at the kitchen table with dough and cookie cutters shaped into animals, hearts, and all sorts of fun designs. As they grew, they began to help me around the kitchen, always interested in learning how to create and decorate with food.
Both boys and girls loved the kitchen and all the experiments we enjoyed. As they each hit the tween years, this fascination seemed to blossom and curiosity took hold. Each of the kids took interest in a different area of cooking or baking. Jennifer loved cake baking while her brother Jo wanted to figure out how to add hot sauce to every dish.
Tips for the Tween Years
During these years, I realized I had an opportunity to take their eagerness and use it to train them to be responsible, diligent, and add a bit of nutrition along the way. Regardless of your kitchen expertise, here’s a few tips to remember during this fun stage.
Start Simple & Healthy
Before kids begin to walk, healthy options should become a standard. The habits a child learns in their early years, tend to stay with them. Healthy options do not mean an all out tofu menu. Begin at the grocery store by limiting what you take home. Substitute processed sugar snacks with fruits while incorporating veggies and protein at each meal.
Ask your tween to help with breakfast, especially if you have younger ones to attend to. Teach them to prepare scrambled eggs while explaining the benefits of protein over the sugar rush of quick and easy cereals.
Tweens love to google and research on social. Ask them to come up with weekly snack plan for the whole family that incorporates a protein, veggies, fruits and minimal sugar.
While making dinner, ask your tween to cook the vegetables. Challenge them to browse your cookbooks or google fun ways to prepare green beans, brussel sprouts, or sweet potatoes.
Keeping the interest alive during these years requires your tweens to enjoy the experience. Allowing them to choose what to cook or bake allows them creative influence and shows your confidence in their maturity as they take responsibility for the outcome. Regardless of the concoction they have invented, be sure to support them by tasting at least one bite.
It wasn’t long before my daughter Jenny had passed my knowledge and expertise on cake baking. Instead of restricting kids to what you know, encourage them to go the distance. By fifteen she had baked wedding cakes with delicate stencil work and hand made flowers.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” My kids hear me quote the Spiderman movie when reminding them of clean up duties. Requiring kids to clean up after baking and cooking is a great way to help them understand the balance between play and work. It can also help them realize the importance of cleaning as they go and limit the number of dishes and areas of the kitchen they mess up. On the other hand, when my kids helped out by making dinner for the family, I quickly jumped in to do the clean up, showing my appreciation for the help.
There’s nothing worse than trying to cook a meal and finding the dishes needed are dirty or the utensils required are not on hand. Making sure tweens have the equipment available is key and reduces frustration. Tweens also need sufficient time to learn this new skill. As parents, we need to exhibit the patience and encouragement as some dishes turn out well, and other dishes require us to call for pizza.