Are you famous for your homemade mac-n-cheese, chocolate cake, or barbecued ribs? Can you whip up a tasty meal from odds and ends in your pantry? Now is the time to share your tried-and-true recipes and kitchen sense with those who will appreciate them the most: your grandchildren.
With families today living a busier, faster-paced life, we have lost some of that special time spent cooking with children. Too often, many kids eat prepackaged, processed food, or fast food and may not be familiar with basic ingredients.
Though you may have spent your own childhood in and around the kitchen, your grandchildren may have little experience with planning meals and following recipes. If this is the case, why not volunteer to be their guide? You'll help them discover the simple pleasures of preparing and sharing homemade foods.
Make food, make memories
Cooking with your grandchildren allows family bonding, teaches life skills, and helps a grandchild feel recognized and valued. Food represents love in many cultures. Families enjoy passing down recipes and traditions--something unique that otherwise might be lost forever. Cooking with grandchildren is a great way to build a loving relationship with them.
Of course, in the eyes of the child, cooking is also fun. Whether you're kneading bread dough, juicing lemons, or grating a block of cheese, cooking engages a child's senses with a variety of aromas, tastes, and textures. Watching ordinary ingredients transform into a delicious masterpiece is fascinating and memorable. In fact, cooking is a great activity for kids. It has a beginning and end, and everyone can celebrate by eating.
Now you're cooking
Ready to rattle some pots and pans with the grandkids? First, a few tips to help you make the most of this experience:
- Allow plenty of time. When kids are in the kitchen, food preparation can take twice as long as usual. So choose an unhurried block of time when kids can learn at their own pace by doing, not just watching. If the first few lessons are positive, they'll be back for more.
- Smile at mistakes. Did eggshells fall into the batter? Did a bagful of rice break open on the floor? Your patience and good humor take the pressure off youngsters learning a new skill. You might even talk about the times your recipes didn't turn out the way you wanted. The lessons you demonstrate: Mistakes aren't disasters and nobody is perfect.
- Look for teachable moments. Working side by side is the ideal time to chat, and you might even introduce an important lesson into the conversation. If you're working with fruits and vegetables, for instance, talk about how nutritious they are. Chopping and slicing calls for pointers on kitchen safety and how to prevent injury. Even cleaning the kitchen teaches responsibility and the importance of completing a task.
- Preserve your roots. It may have been years since you've made tortillas, raviolis, or spring rolls by hand, but don't miss the opportunity to demonstrate and teach recipes that hold a special place in your culture or family. Sharing stories or proverbs about foods and telling how a recipe was passed on gives meaning to family traditions.
- Lighten it up. Family recipes may be great tasting, but are full of fat and calories. If a favorite homemade dish is high in salt, sugar, or fat, why not experiment and create a healthier version or make smaller portions?
- Create a recipe book. Even if you store your best recipes in your head, write them down. Buy an inexpensive blank book or small binder and fill it with instructions for making your favorite dishes. Include any photos or stories related to these foods. A recipe collection from grandparents is something that is special and unique. Years later, when you're no longer here, the value will be even greater.
- Swap recipes by mail. What if your grandchildren live far away? Send them recipes by postcard or e-mail and suggest they try them out that weekend. You can even send a food sample in a small package. Ask for a report back on how the dish turned out. Remember, a food you introduce to your grandchildren today may become a lifelong favorite.