Teaching My Daughter to Cook

Over the holidays my daughter and I got to talking about New Year resolutions, what they mean, and why we make them. I shared with her some of my resolutions and as expected my daughter wanted to make her own. I asked my daughter to think about something she would like to learn to do or improve on. She quickly came up with two resolutions, the first being that she wanted to learn to cook and the second being she wanted to take karate lessons.

Karate lessons — not a problem! But cooking? As much as I was excited about my daughter wanting to cook, I couldn’t get away from the fact that my daughter just turned five. I suppose my daughter noticed my hesitation because she quickly added a very compelling argument: “If you don’t teach me to cook, when you become so old and weak, there would be no one to cook food for you.” To prevent myself from discouraging my very optimistic daughter, I agreed. Then after dwelling on it I realized this could be used as a learning adventure for her. Here is what we have agreed on in terms of learning to cook:

  1. She is welcome to cook one meal a week with me, most likely during the weekends.
  2. She and I will come up with a meal plan which covers all four main food groups and then write a shopping list of items needed for the meal.
  3. She must accompany me to the grocery store to purchase the groceries needed.
  4. She must choose to include one new vegetable or a vegetable that she doesn’t like as an ingredient.

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My daughter happily agreed to all of the above. Some of you reading this may think this is too much for a five-year-old but let me explain why I came up with this:

For obvious reasons, such as a busy life and hectic weekdays, I will not be enlisting the help of my daughter on weekdays. She is already a full-time kindergartener who takes tap and ballet lessons and sometime soon we will be starting karate lessons as well. On weekdays what I expect from my daughter is for her to take time to rest, play with her brother, and read. Cooking on weekends would be much more relaxed for us and a better learning environment for her.

The reason why I want my daughter to come up with a meal plan is so that I have the opportunity to teach her about creating a balanced meal using the four main food groups. I believe it is important to teach children about healthy eating habits early on rather than forcing it upon them, so that they develop a lifelong commitment to healthy eating. My favourite part about this whole cooking adventure is that my normally picky daughter has agreed to try new vegetables and eat the vegetables that she normally picks out of her food. And that in itself is a great New Year’s resolution for a five-year-old.

My daughter is an avid reader; she can spell and she can sound out words but for some reason she hates writing. I am hoping the grocery list will help encourage my daughter to write without her realizing that she is actually writing. And if she really doesn’t want to write, pictures would be fine too. This will also help her learn to be prepared and organized.

By accompanying me to the grocery store my daughter will learn to look for and choose fresh produce. She will learn to wait patiently as we look for things and while we wait to check out. She will also learn responsibility. Although my daughter enjoys grocery shopping, I hardly take her. I usually run to the store while she is at school so that I can take my time shopping and then have time to prepare a meal before she comes home from school.

Since my daughter is just five she will not actually be cooking on the stove, or cutting with a sharp knife. She will help me with the preparation work such as measuring ingredients (similar to when she helps me bake), washing vegetables or herbs, adding spices, and things of that nature. The kitchen gadgets she will be using for the time-being will probably be limited to a peeler, wire whisk, masher, wooden spoons, and blender. I have previously let my daughter cut mushrooms and paneer with a butter knife, and I will probably also continue to let her do that. We certainly wont be cooking extravagant meals anytime soon but we can definitely start with simple but healthy meals. More than my daughter learning to cook, I am excited about us having yet another opportunity to bond over our shared interests.

My daughter and I are really looking forward to this weekend to cook our first meal together. I will be back with updates soon!

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