How to involve children in cooking?
It has to be fun - both for adult and children.
Remember, "it is never too late to learn about food, because you will eat for the rest of your life!" In other words, you can start whenever you want.
Sometimes I hear people say, "Well, my mother didn't really cook food" or "my mother wasn't good at cooking."
OK, so why don't "YOU" start? YOU have the power to change your life, and for your kids to say the same about your cooking. You can learn for yourself, with partner, or with children. Get curious, be open, and don't judge until you try.
Here are some tools I would recommend.
"Pictionary" - please refer to my article, "Nice to have book: Ingredients."
Knife for children - please refer to my article, "Nice to have tool: knife."
Surgical glove - this would make cooking so much fun for kids. - please refer to my article, "Nice to have tool: surgical glove."
Newspaper/advertizement paper - please refer to my article, "Nice to have tool: newspaper/advertizement peper."
Here are some suggestions on what you can start with:
You can start teaching the name of ingredients. If possible, both in Norwegian and other languages which you'd prefer your children to learn.
You can let children slice (with a knife which is not sharp - such as dinner knife, or children's knife) something. I'd start with banana.
Age 4-5 and up
You can let children use tools, such as peeler, masher, spatula, etc. Also, involve them in cleaning/washing. Rinsing dishes and cutleries, and put them into a dishwasher is an important task for everyone. Once I was asked after dinner, "Do I have to put them into dishwasher?" So I said, "No, it's not like you have to." So a child left them on the table. Next morning, when we had breakfast, the dirty dinner plate was still on the table. She said, "My plate is dirty." I said, "Well, the plate doesn't have legs to walk to dishwasher, so you need to help them to get it washed." And it took her once to learn that it's her responsibility to rinse and place dish and cutleries into dishwasher. I know that it's easier and faster if adults would do it, but that's when we need to be patient and consistent. If it becomes routine, the child will carry this habit for the rest of their lives.
What I found out was that children are so interested in participating, and taking responsibility. Make sure to taste ingredients (whatever you can eat raw, that is...) and ask for "their opinion," such as, "What do you think? Do you think we need more salt? Or is it OK?" These question would make them feel important and send them a sign, "your opinion really matters."
When children are involved in cooking (not only cooking itself, but setting table, or even washing carrots!) they are focused on adults' reaction when eating. They are curious to see how adults enjoy the meal, and hoping that we'd notice something special - because they participated in cooking.
When I was growing up, we didn't have enough food, and couldn't afford nice ingredients. However, it was the fact that I didn't know until I grew up. So, whatever you give to your children now, will be the world for them. This is something adults should remember. It's not about how many kinds of ingredients you can afford, but it is about how much fun you share with your children when cooking and eating, because the experience is what they bring for the rest of their lives.
When I was 4, I tried to make scrambled egg. Apparently, I put too much salt, and even my dog didn't eat it. Then my father soaked the super salty scrambled egg into a bowl of hot water (to remove salt - I believe it was a desperate attempt...), drain the scrambled egg, had a bite, and said, "Well, this is the best scrambled egg I have ever eaten!" Maybe he said that not to waste egg, but boy, how happy I was. I don't remember if he ate the rest of scrambled egg, but I do remember how I felt then. And it was the beginning of my interest in cooking. Even today, I think of the scrambled egg and how my father made me feel that day.
A picture of my father (when he was young...)