Slow Times in the Kitchen
You’ve heard of slow cooking, but what is “slow parenting”?
No, it doesn’t mean putting our kids in a slow cooker and simmering them until they are adults – as attractive as that may seem on bad days.
Slow parenting is an emerging trend that encourages us to slow down, discover the important activities in life and take the time to concentrate on those. The idea has been credited to author Carl Honore whose book, The Power of Slow, urges us to keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together.
At Kids Culinary Adventures, slow parenting takes the form of gathering your family around the kitchen table. This year, designate a day each week to prepare a meal together, and allow the kids to be a part of it.
Many parents say they enjoy having their kids “help” in the kitchen, but it often ends up with Mom cooking and kids stirring and tasting. What parents need to do is pique their kids’ interest in how to cook. Not only will family cooking be a fun activity, parents may get some much needed help.
Take, for instance, kitchen gadgets. While parents and caregivers may see an overstuffed utensil drawer needing to be cleaned out, kids see a bunch of shiny, interesting tools that mom and dad use every day. Take the time to teach them how to use these kitchen “toys” safely and effectively.
Given the right equipment and proper training, your child will be able to manage peelers, paring knives and other kitchen gear with surprising dexterity and confidence. Keep in mind, you know your child best – be aware of what they will be comfortable using, and always keep safety as a top priority.
Following are some fun and helpful kitchen tasks for kids.
Under 7 years
- Measuring, adding ingredients, stirring, kneading or mixing ingredients by hand, shaping dough, spreading, mashing, shredding or tearing herbs and lettuces.
- Shucking peas and legumes;
- Shopping, test tasting and cleanup.
Children 7 to 9 years
Peeling: Guide a small hand with your own hand at first. The more often they hear, “Always peel away from your hands, not toward them,” the better. Have them peel over a paper towel for easy clean up.
Children 11 and 12 years
Cutting with a paring knife: While peeling long vegetables like carrots, help keep their hands and the peeler further and further apart from one another. Then, have them slice vegetables that offer a little less resistance and are easier to cut, such as zucchini and peeled cucumbers.
Kids 13 and older
Cutting with larger knives: Young teens are ready to take on more sophisticated cooking chores such as cutting and slicing more than veggies. But even though these kids show more dexterity, keep an eye on them. Usually this age breeds confidence which will lead to increased speed, and increased speed can lead to cuts. A gentle reminder to slow down is often the best way to keep someone on the right road. Make sure all your knives are sharp. If by chance someone does get a cut from a sharp knife, the cut won’t be as bad as one from a dull knife. Keep your cutting board on top of a damp towel to prevent it from moving and always work clean – it’s safer.
Once you and your children are comfortable with their talents in the kitchen, you’ll discover a brand new hobby. Who knows – Family Cooking Night may replace Family Game Night as the most popular activity you can all do together.
Gigi Gaggero, a mother of two, is a former dean of students at the California Culinary Academy and the founder of Kids Culinary Adventures, which offers cooking classes and summer culinary camps. For more information, visit kidsculinaryadventures.com.