Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ten ways to bond with children in the kitchen

Angie here: 
Sharing family traditions is as much about relationship building as preserving history and memories. Using the heart of the home, the kitchen, you can enrich the bond with your children and grandchildren by teaching special recipes.
Grammy shows how flour enhances the experience of making noodles! 

1. It's not limited by age. Exploring how flour feels and laughing at how a rolling pin makes shapes works well with toddlers. But helping a young lady begin to cook by sight, smell, taste, and feel adds the art to her cooking repertoire. It's especially wonderful when my daughters or daughters-in-law want to learn a dish they love.

Mariah's 1st batch of Maple Scotch Eggs~a family tradition for our teas.

2. Use humor and take photos of silly moments. We posted these to facebook because it was fun. In sharing the joy, we made the moment immortal with friends and family. Great memory-especially when one of her "eyes" fell out, lol! Do something with those photos to relive the memory because it connects to special places in your brain that imprint emotion. Imprinted emotion is a little map to the heart.
Look Mom, I'm cross-eyed!
3. Share the recipe in action. Rather than just write it (yes, do that too) be sure to invite the child to make it with you. The surprise is in all the tips you do without thinking. While making the Scotch Eggs, I told my daughter about the way to make sure the sausage was the right thickness, how to keep the oil the right temperature, avoiding eggs from splitting, and how to manage the time element of assembly. Many of those little "secrets" aren't so much secret as not thought about unless you're actually making it.

4. Use the Disney element. Explore the newness through their eyes. It's easy to chase someone out of the kitchen and do it yourself. The magic is in watching them experience it for the first time. The confidence  and sparkle in their expression exuding as they hold their creation .

5. Tell stories about other relatives connected to the recipe. Where did it come from? What's the heritage or special tradition attached to the food? Anything funny in a disaster with this recipe? Special touching incident? While making the Scotch Eggs, we talked about being Swedish, Scotch, English, and our connection to a French king back in the middle ages. Of course, then her "eye" fell out and we just giggled!

6. Remember the goal is to help the other person feel confident that they can make the dish. Show, explain, and then let them try. It's about hands on experimenting, not standing and watching. But the most important is not worrying over the mess. It takes less time to clean up a little spilled flour than it does to explain why you want to do it all yourself. This is not a time for chastising.

7. Relax and smile a lot. Encourage and show again when needed.

8. Make sure the recipe is either age appropriate or you have a way to offer alternate "helper" moments. For toddlers, help them pour in ingredients or give them a chunk of dough and their own smaller rolling pin. Show them each ingredient and let them touch it.

9. Be logical about the steps. If possible, lay out the ingredients in an assembly line. Go down the line on the counter. Keeps you sane while directing the flow in the kitchen. For instance: we laid out the eggs to peel, the small plate with flour, next was the sausage patty station, then the raw egg wash, next the bowl with bread crumbs, and finally the plate to use for transferring into the oil.

10. Make enough to share with others. Why? Because it reinforces the bonding experience of cooking together every time the new story is told. If you're the recipient, let them tell you all about it. Praise them, thank them, and help reinforce the joyful memory by hearing the entire kitchen tale. A patient ear is precious.

How do you bond over food?

You can find more cooking tips in Angie's book, Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance.


  1. What fun photos! All my kids like to do a little bit of cooking. My daughter especially likes to come up with her own recipes--and writes them down if they're successful. :)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Angie, great post! Cooking is a great bonding experience. I am passing that on now. And it is lots of fun. :)

    One thing I would add to your post for anyone who may shy away from letting the little ones in the kitchen is that with experience they get better and better, hence the mess gets smaller and smaller. :) And I agree, watching them be proud of their accomplishments is sweet.

    Great photos, thanks for sharing!