Cooking at 7 – is it too young to start?


A few weeks back my son asks me if he can learn cooking – the whole complete meal. I probe him further what he mean by that and what do he plan to cook. He told me that he wants to cook for the whole family, like what Mummy does – “all the dishes and boil rice too”. I am not sure why boiling rice seems a big thing to him when it is the easiest, but of course, as a Mum, I was proud that he took the initiatives to ask me if he can learn to cook.

A year back, during Mother’s Day, daddy gave them an opportunity to cook Mummy breakfast – The Big Breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs, mushroom, baked beans, and toast bread that sort. However, it wasn’t what he meant by the ‘complete meal’. Maybe because I don’t normally cook breakfast and we normally just have bread with peanut butter, jam and butter. He wants to cook like what I normally do for lunch and dinners.

Last year’s Mother’s Day breakfast.. Awwww.. how fast the kids grow

Reluctantly, I say we can do this as a Sunday activities. I normally don’t cook on weekends as I would want to take a break from the busy weekdays. I don’t have the heart to say no to him and I am a strong believer that when a kid is prepared to learn and at their most curious state, we should allow them. Of course, I have my reservation. Knowing him, he is those who want to try and do everything himself – which means, he will be holding the knife.

The week heading to Sunday

So the whole week towards Sunday, we talk a lot about knife safety and also how we will also need to be careful as he has a 3 and 5 years old sister at home. We also discuss on the menu for Sunday night and also time planning as he has drawing class and his sisters have ballet class in between.

One of the evenings, somehow everything on the dining table seems wrong. What’s typical of their favourite food is somehow not what they want to eat on that day. All 3 of them was on food strike that night that I have to give them a naggy lecture about food wastage and also the time and effort I place to cook them their dinner. In my mind, it’s just the right time and right place because this coming Sunday, he will learn that cooking ain’t just a finger snap.

Sunday

We have our usual Sunday morning breakfast and then I took the opportunity to bring him for marketing and allow him to choose ingredients. Prior that week, he told me that he wants to cook soup, vegetable, eggs and his favourite – potato chicken. So during the marketing, I asked him to pick specifically what would the dishes be. He picks broccoli as it’s one of the vegetables that all of them like – especially his sisters, potato chicken, scrambled eggs and herbal soup.

As we will be out of home between 930am till 3pm, we start our cooking by making the soup in the electronic double boiler. He knows that boiling soup takes time, so we start with boiling the soup before we leave home.

He couldn’t wait to get home. After lunch, it was his sister’s ballet class and he keep asking if we can go home early first and daddy picks up his sister later. I actually enjoy looking at his enthusiastic, but I told him it is too early to start cooking dinner at 1pm. I brief him what he needs to do at home later when we are back – which personally I think this is important to get their mindset right. To me, the setback of the dishes he wants to cook would be peeling the potatoes. He picked 6 large potatoes – he pick the largest the seller has and it wasn’t entirely wrong, just that it might not be easy for his small hands. So, I told him that this would be his setback and it will take time.

We start our dinner making at 3pm by peeling potatoes, which he took about 1.5 hours for 6 large potatoes. I showed him once how to use the peelers and explained the hand orientation to minimised injuries, but I didn’t tell him how he should manage the large potatoes (because all honesty, I don’t really know what would be the best way as the potatoes do fit my hands). After peeling the second one, through his own experience, he learned that he can place the potato on the countertop and peel downwards since his hand couldn’t hold the whole potatoes. However, as the countertop was slippery, he started thinking of an alternative. Peeling potatoes for 1.5 hours was definitely far too long for me, but I didn’t want to help him either. He should go through all the good and bad of dinner making. He improvises his method by placing a table cloth at the bottom to prevent it from being slippery. Definitely a point for him for thinking out of the box.
This for me is worth mentioning. Hopefully, it would give confidence to other parents to continue to monitor from far and allow the kids to explore themselves.

In action..


Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner was definitely a success. He indeeds cook a complete dinner, which I was very sceptical at first.

His first ‘complete meal’
Top (L to R) : Potato chicken, Broccoli with carrots and meat
Bottom (L to R) : Scramble eggs and soup


The next morning, I asked if he enjoyed cooking the dinner and if he would want to do it again. He told me he really likes it and would want to cook again the following Sunday. I ask him which dish he likes the most and he loudly exclaimed “potato chicken”, which I ask him to write down the recipe so he could refer it next time. The following weeks, he cooks potato chicken without supervision and just by referring to his ‘recipe’.



His recipe for Potato Chicken hanging on our kitchen wall

Love that:

  • He took initiatives to ask to cook Sunday dinner. It goes on for a few weekends until recently he asks to learn to do sewing instead as Sunday activities.
  • He finds ways to improve how to peel large potatoes.
  • He thinks of his sisters when he chooses what vegetables to buy.
  • He took pride that he didn’t want to just cook one dish, but he wants to cook the complete meal.
  • Super love that now they understand cooking ain’t just a snap on finger and without trying the food and say “I don’t like it” would only hurt the person who spent their time cooking for them.

Learning from this experience:

  • I need to learn to accept that at this age, they’re really like a sponge. Absorb everything in lightning speed – so don’t think that even they’re at primary school age, they’re learning too much.
  • He would be a good role model for his sisters too. The following week, his 5 years old sister picks up using the knife and his younger sister helps prepare vegetables.
The siblings teamwork to get dinner ready

Definitely, a kid can start cooking at whatever age they themselves feel they’re ready…

grace

Grace is a Mum of 3 happy, chirpy and energetic kids that she always call them monkeys! She chose to be a stay-at-home-mum so she can be around tending to her kids needs hence she pulls out her entrepreneur skill by co-founding Bare Nuhcessities; a baby personal care products that focus on using safe ingredients in their products. She's also the founder of Memento; making handcrafted keepsake made with breastmilk, baby hair and baby cord. She also wrote a few recipe books which are available in Popular bookstore.

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