Parenting Off the Hook: Taking Your Kids to Flavortown
By Sara Butler
Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter
The mayor of Flavortown, celebrity chef Guy Fieri, is celebrating his birthday on Jan. 22. When I think of Flavortown, I imagine rivers of gravy and giant turkey leg-wielding mobs chasing away any food that’s not deep fried. Oh sure, you can believe Flavortown isn’t real, but if you can hold tight onto your childlike sense of awe and joy, Flavortown is very real, even someplace you can discover with your own family -- minus the puddles of trans fats.
Create your own Flavortown, maybe even a Tasteopolis, where you and your family work together to make healthy meals you all enjoy. In fact, teaching your kids to cook helps your children to build basic skills (math!), encourages them to try new things, and helps even little kids explore their senses. Plus, it instills knowledge in them about healthy food choices and builds confidence. I believe Guy Fieri would consider teaching your kids to cook quite the real deal, even if it doesn’t involve copious amounts of butter or whatever “Donkey Sauce” is.
Here are some tips to help you get your kids in the kitchen so they can create a Flavortown of their very own -- frosted tips are optional.
The Best Age
Let’s face it, a kitchen is a dangerous place that involves boiling liquids and sharp objects -- not exactly a place where you want to give your children free rein. Even little kids as young as 18 months can do something in the kitchen to help, such as dump in pre-measured ingredients, but it is important to give them tasks that are age appropriate.
For kids who are 3 to 5, give them specific tasks such as measuring ingredients, mashing up potatoes, whisking ingredients, or even cutting herbs with a butter knife. Show kids this age the difference between wet and dry measuring cups and how to measure each, and have them help you count out ingredients.
For kids in the 5- to 7-year-old range, engage them in the more technical aspects of cooking with better equipment. Children this age are able to handle peeling, grating, mixing, measuring, pouring, and even setting the table. Just make sure if you let them cut anything or let them near hot surfaces that you provide constant supervision or you could end up making a very unrighteous trip to the emergency room.
In the 8- to 11-year-old “I know better than you and I can do it on my own” crowd, give them straightforward and simple recipes they can complete on their own. You can even get them involved in the process of planning and shopping for ingredients. Even though they claim to know what they’re doing at every turn, it’s important at this age to go over safety in the kitchen, too. Talk to them about using pot holders for hot objects, time management, and the dangers of different utensils and equipment.
Kids 12 years old and up can hopefully put together all they’ve learned from you over the years to cook and improvise on more complex recipes. If they take that safety stuff seriously, they may even be able to use the big-time equipment, such as food processors and blenders. They’ll become drunk with power.
Simple Tips to Get Started
Getting your kids on board for a learning experience isn’t always easy, but if you can spark their interest in cooking from an early age, then you may have an easier time. Remember, it’s never too late to start teaching your kids how to cook. Simply remember a few tips to make the whole experience more fun for everyone:
- Try not to freak out - As previously discussed, kitchens are dangerous places. Be aware of the hazards but try to keep the mood light and relaxed as you supervise. As Guy Fieri would say, you have to put the shama in the “shama lama ding dong.”
- Give your kids a stake - No, not a steak, but a stake. It’s a truth universally acknowledged by parents that a child will be far more open to new things if they have skin in the game. In the kitchen, that means letting them cook the things they really are interested in cooking, even if that includes a less-than-healthy recipe. In other words, let them make a cake but also strike a deal that puts you in the healthier driver’s seat for the next recipe.
- Keep your goal in mind - Your goal in cooking with your children isn’t to create dishes that Guy Fieri would serve in one of this 30 restaurants. The goal is to encourage your them to be independent and to boost their self-esteem. In the end, you should have a happy, excited child who may be the only one in their class who can pronounce “Worcestershire” correctly.
Cooking with your child is a “winner winner chicken dinner” kind of situation. It’s a chance to help your child to have so much love for salami (or healthier options) that they have to call their mommy. It creates an opportunity to spend time with your kids while you teach them a valuable real-life skill. It’s also something they’ll appreciate when they’re older, so they can’t say you never gave them anything. It’s essentially what being a parent is all about, so it’s time to face-a the cabeza and get to work with your kids -- it’s off the hook.
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