Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kids Cooking 101: AKA "Make it your darn self"

Many many years ago a woman with a Down Syndrome child was on Oprah and she said that having a special-needs child forced her to research everything that kids could do at certain ages. Most parents stop hyper-reflecting on their child's developmental milestones after the age of about 3. Which is a good thing, in my opinion, since there is no point in being hyper all of the time. But while culturally there is more focus on "performance achievements" (ie: in school, sports, music, art) overall it seems we're dropping the ball on teaching kids functional achievements (cooking, cleaning, repairing stuff, making stuff, being of use to others!). In this interview, the mom said that she learned children should be able to cook some things by age 7. So she started her Down Syndrome daughter in the kitchen at that age to help prepare her for the future. Reflecting on this, I recalled hearing stories of women from other countries who said they were preparing the entire family meal by age 9.

Believe it or not, I've had that Oprah episode in my head for all these years, just waiting to have a kid old enough to put to work. ha ha!

Kids it is time. Actually I've had Francesca learning a few things already, but definitely now that she is 7 I feel she is at an age where she can more reliably learn things. How to cut, how to turn on the stove, how to work the microwave, how to measure, and most importantly, how to read and follow directions.

So last week when she wanted Top Ramen I said "Sure if you can make it yourself!" So I stood in the kitchen, but I absolutely refused any help beyond watching her turn on the stove.

"Mom, what do I do?"

"Read the directions!"

"Boil two cups of water." "What do I do?"

What does "Boil two cups of water mean?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I guess you're not getting any Top Ramen because you're going to have to figure it out."

Lo and behold someone figured out to get a pan.

It was quite an interesting experience watching her struggle with this concept of reading and following directions all by herself. But most importantly, I want her to learn that she can DO THINGS. She can solve her own problems. She can think things through. She doesn't need me to do every single thing. She can read. She can measure. This is all fun stuff actually, and I'm glad she's at an age where she can develop these skills. It's quite fun!

So here is a pic from yesterday. We decided to make cookies. Adam learned how to crack an egg. Francesca had to read all the ingredients and directions and she learned the difference between how to measure out brown sugar and measure out flour. She worked the beater. Both she and Adam spooned the batter onto the sheet. I stood there and watched and did as little as I possibly could.

Hooray for growing independence!


Yara said...

Yay! My kids have found a stove-free way to make ramen noodles. The coffee maker "water" option. Every few weeks Lisa, sometimes with Lorelei's help, sometimes by herself, is in charge of dinner. A crockpot is a 9 year olds best friend ; )
The cooking school by the park has some awesome classes in the summer, you might want to look into them for Frannie.
I really miss the girls going; Lisa learned so much! (Lorelei learned a bit, she was only there for about 2 months, so like 8 lessons)

fuentes said...

Very cool. 4 more years till Keelin is 7