Tips for Cooking with Older Kids from Fresh Routes

The Kids Cook Monday is thrilled to announce our partnership with Fresh Routes, a New York City-based company that provides ready-to-cook dinner kits to make home cooking more convenient and fun. Starting August 4th, Fresh Routes will provide a 10% discount to families participating in The Kids Cook Monday online (use code kidscookmonday) and in their pop-up shop in the Union Square subway station in New York City. This post comes to us from Sarah Frank, one of Fresh Routes’ founders and an experienced culinary educator.

When you cook with kids, particularly older kids, collaboration can be challenging. They want to do things alone, but they don’t always have the skills to do so. Here are a few tips from the front lines where I teach healthy cooking classes to New York City teenagers:

  • Let them experiment. Sometimes, kids have the worst ideas. Are you sure you want to put cinnamon on those Brussels sprouts? Let your kids try things out, even if you are skeptical of their choices. They will be much more invested in what they have made if they have room for creativity. And, they’ll learn a lot about seasoning and flavors if you let them play around. If you think you can stomach it, let them do it.
  • Let them make mistakes without scrutiny. Many of us cook in constant fear of screwing something up. If you can avoid passing that fear along to your kids, they will be much more likely to want to cook with you as they enter their tween and teen years. Of course, you can’t compromise food safety, but if you can let an error slide, do. Not every moment is a teachable moment.
  • Make their meal seem special. When families are busy, dinner is often shortchanged to make room for other activities. When your kids are involved in the cooking, try to make the meal extra special by using special table settings, taking extra time to eat, or giving a round of applause to the chefs.
  • Praise specific actions and tastes. As much as possible, encourage your budding chef with specific praise. Do you like the texture of the vegetables? The balance of flavors in the salad dressing? Did your child do an excellent job recovering after a cooking mistake? By making your praise specific, it allows your child to feel genuinely proud of his or her accomplishments even if everything didn’t work out perfectly. This type of praise turns cooking from a daily task that they are helping out with into an art that they can continually improve at.

When I teach cooking, I make sure to share my mistakes as well as my tips because kids need to know that nothing worth doing is easy. What are your biggest cooking blunders? Have you had any with your kids that you have all learned from? How do you provide encouragement to your kids in the kitchen?

Sarah Frank is an educator and entrepreneur based in New York City. After several years working as a health educator, Sarah launched Fresh Routes, a company that sells ready-to-cook dinner kits that make home cooking more convenient and fun. When she isn’t cooking, Sarah teaches English and Special Education at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School in Manhattan. You can find her on Twitter@sarahpfrank.

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