My kids are my great kitchen apprentices

Guest post by Christine Sypal

This isn't one of the sons mentioned, but this photo is CUTE! Photo by Tasslehoff Burrfoot, used with Creative Commons license.
I have three little boys. Sam, who is seven, Eddie, who is six, and Jasper, who will be eight weeks old on Wednesday. They are rambunctious little boys, full of energy and creativity and enthusiasm. I am a stay-at-home-momma now (I haven’t always been, so this is a great thing to me) and as my Twitter bio says, I am a “tattooed creatress of knitted and crocheted objects, reader of books, and baker of pastries.” Those are three big loves, and I have always made it a point to share them with my boys.

Happily for me (and all of us, really), they have become my kitchen helpers. I’ve found that a lot of adults that I’ve spoken with find it unusual that my kids have been assisting me in the kitchen since… well, since they were old enough to sit on my hip, but that’s how we’ve always done it. I love kitchens — I know it’s a cliché, but the kitchen, to me, is the heart of a home. I am crazy about all things cooking-related — I ask for tools and implements as gifts, I drool over Williams-Sonoma, and I am constantly on the lookout for goodies at thrift stores and garage sales. I enjoy cooking meals, but my deep passion is for baking.

As I said, I’ve always included my two older boys in what I’m doing in the kitchen. When Sam was an infant, and I was struggling with postpartum depression, I would put him in his bouncy chair and bake and bake and bake. When he got older, I would hold him on my hip and we’d sniff the vanilla, the spices, touch the flour and sugar, taste the difference between sweet and salty. When he got even older, he’d hold a spoon and help stir.

Eddie came along very soon after, and Sam helped me even more — arranging slices of sweet potatoes to be made into baby food, sorting out vegetables and fruits, and mixing up cereal with me. In 2005, I found myself a single mother receiving food stamps. It was a big change from what we were used to, but we made it work. Trips to the grocery store took a long time, because we spent ages in the produce section, touching and smelling the fruits and vegetables, talking about what we’d make, and selecting just the right specimens for our cooking. I was able to buy the things I needed for healthy meals, and I will always be grateful for the assistance I received when I needed it most.

young griller

As they’ve gotten older their kitchen duties have naturally expanded. They’ve helped knead bread dough, made streusel, cut shortening into flour to make pie crust. They crack eggs, measure out ingredients, and under VERY careful supervision, Sam slices soft vegetables and fruits.

I really feel like these skills are important for them to learn. Cooking is a total sensory and educational experience. Sam struggles with reading, so he practices by reading out recipes. They’ve learned fractions and enhanced math skills with the measuring of ingredients. They’ve learned exotic cooking terms, and the satisfaction of creating something with their own hands and through their own actions. Plus, the gratification of a tangible (and delicious!) result is eminently satisfying.

Comments on My kids are my great kitchen apprentices

  1. My parents are both excellent cooks, and they involved my brother and I in the kitchen from a very young age! It didn’t all rub off on me (while I’m perfectly competent, I think my brother got the bulk of my parents’ cooking skills) but I think it was a great foundation for my love of good food.

  2. Love this! I grew up cooking with my mom and am forever grateful because otherwise my husband and I would not eat as well as we do now. Also, my younger brother cooked with us a lot and now he cooks for his roomies and all their friends.

  3. What an awesome family experience! My dad is an amazing cook and he had us in the kitchen cooking all the time, when we got a little older he had us experimenting making desserts on our own while he made dinner. Once middle school and high school hit we each had an assigned night to cook dinner for the whole family, budgeting and shopping included. It was all great 🙂

  4. Super post! I have to admit that I did not have the patience for involving my kids in cooking when they were younger, but in the past six months it’s really gotten fun to make cookies with them or to pick out a new recipe to try for dinner. I love the idea of sniffing spices and lingering in the produce section, too – and can’t wait for nice warm weather so we can get our garden going. Thanks for the inspiration, Christine!

  5. Fantastic post! I cook a lot (especially baking) with my two-year-old. He loves to help beat eggs and enthusiastically nods in agreement when I work out measurements aloud to scale recipes. It’s fulfilling on so many levels!

  6. While I only started helping my mother and father when I was about twelve. I remember my grandparents on both sides always making huge meals whenever we visited, so I’ve always equated making a meal for someone you care about as a big sign of love.
    Actually, that feel good “I made you cookies because I love you” feeling is one of the things I blame for me entering cooking school. Even now, whenever I go visit a friend, I always bring some sort of baked good as a way to show I care.

  7. I have a 2yr old and our favorite rainy day activity is cooking. He helps me scoop dinners into the crock pot and we love baking! He likes to taste everything as it goes in, so we do a lot of hand washing!

  8. Just wanted to say “LOVE THIS!” When I was little, I practiced counting by counting cups of flour/sugar/whatever as my mom dumped them into the stand mixer to make cookies (I realized much later that she was probably using quarter- or half-cups to make the numbers a little higher). In the kitchen I learned fractions and all sorts of other useful skills. I remember being completely stunned in middle school home ec class when I discovered that most of my classmates couldn’t literally didn’t know how to boil water or how to use a measuring cup. I love to cook, and while I don’t have kids yet, I’m super excited about someday involving them in cooking and making some of the same recipes that I made with my mom.

  9. What a lovely article to read!

    I grew up watching my mother and grandmother cook – as soon as I was old enough, I would push a chair up to the counter and get stuck in! I will definitely be doing the same with my children. I think it teaches so many useful skills: knowing how to cook, basic hygiene, understanding quality ingredients, skills such as knife skills and it’s fun!

  10. I grew up with a mother as a caterer, so as early as she’d let me I “worked” for her, dipping things into chocolate, skewering things, etc. It set me up for a lifetime of good cooking. I am expecting my first in Sept. and can’t wait to get them into the kitchen with me. I sometimes worry about filling my babies days with positive things, and not being a “lazy parent” and checking out in front of the tv. I think after reading this I have much more confidence in my abilities and plan to fill my afternoons in the kitchen with elaborate recipes with bubba by my side, absorbing it all.

  11. My husband cooks with our 2 year old — I do a little too, but he has more patience than I do. They put the bowls down on the kitchen floor and scoop into them at that level, or we put my son’s trip trap in the kitchen and he uses that at the counter. They make pancakes, scoop coffee in to the coffee maker, whatever needs to be done. I love listening to them cooking together!

  12. I babysit for families in my church and my FAVOURITE activity is cooking. And they love it!

    In one particularly family, the middle child has just gone off to 4yr old kindy, leaving me sitting her youngest brother, 2yr old Jos. He LOVES measuring flour/sugar/milk out, cracking eggs (messy!), mixing and eating yummy muffins, cakes and biscuits at the end of it. They used to fight for the chance to measure/sift/mix, but now just with one, it’s AWESOME! Cooking with kids is the best.

    Now I just need my own kids!

  13. I love this image. You in the kitchen, teaching, loving, baking. I know I haven’t spent enough time in the kitchen with my own brood and it’s too bad I didn’t start as early as you. Never too late though. It is a perfect place to teach so many things. Thanks for the inspiration.

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