I am the mother of two boys and I am hell bent on making gentlemen out of them. I want them to be good partners one day, which means they need an education in the domestic arts, including cooking, and I'm starting them young. At two and a half Wylie can now crack and beat eggs and he's learning how to use a knife. He's been practicing with a peeler and pumpkin carving tools (ideas I borrowed from his preschool). I try to include them in the kitchen as much as possible so that they observe my techniques. Given the opportunity, they really love to cook and often surprise me with their ideas. I've also found that they become more adventurous with their eating when they help out. I try to be very mindful when they are in the kitchen. I always turn pan handles toward the stove, keep sharp knives out of reach, and encourage lots of hand washing (boys are icky), but I give them enough space to make a mess and have fun. Here are a few more ideas to get your kids involved:
1. Have them help you with the planning/shopping. Get their ideas for meals before you shop to get them fired up about what they'll be cooking/eating.
2. Swap out cooking shows for cartoons, they love them. Read recipes and look at cooking magazines together. Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Cooking Light and Saveur are all good visual options.
3. Grow your own food together. Plant a seed, watch it grow, eat it. Wylie refuses to try prepared green beans, but he freely eats them in the backyard, and he loves to pick and wash them in the sink. Next step, on a plate...
4. When you're at a restaurant try out something new together and then try to recreate it at home. This get's them thinking about ingredients and flavors.
5. Give them specific jobs that they can own. Let them measure and mix. Let them flip the pancakes, stir the soup, frost a cake. Talk to them about how to do things safely. They love kitchen equipment. Let them grind the coffee or man the Kitchen Aid. Their abilities in the kitchen might surprise you.
Wylie's Vegetable Stew (it was pretty tasty)