My daughter Maisie has been cooking since she was in playgroup. As the editor of the UK's largest food title you might think this is a) no surprise and b) not indicative of the general population. But you'd be wrong.
A survey from BBC Good Food magazine of 1,349 people throughout the country found that youngsters of today are learning to cook at an average age of six versus 10 for their parents' generation.
The reasons given were a combination of an abundance of TV cookery shows and a more relaxed attitude to household roles. The change in attitudes reflects just how embedded cooking has become to our day to day lives. It's hard to believe that as recently as thirty years ago it was still largely seen as a 'women's role' and kids were often shooed out of the kitchen.
Many from my generation would have grown up with our early cooking experiences being in really formulaic home economics lessons in the eighties, hardly conducive to inspiring any long term passion.
However kids growing up today, dubbed the 'Jamie Oliver generation' are being bought up with cooking culture all around them and a host of accessible role models like Jamie, who have all made cooking cool and therefore something kids are keen to get involved in from a young age. Another trend helping to drive this forward is the growth of social media with food fans of all ages keen to share their creations with others.
By enabling and encouraging kids at a young age in this essential life skill you can reap the benefits and use cooking as a way of teaching them a whole range of skills.
When my daughter started playgroup five years ago, it occurred to me that lots of the activities she enjoyed there were similar to everyday kitchen jobs. If she liked playing with cups of water, there was no reason why she couldn't measure a dressing into a jar and shake it up, and there's little difference between Play-Doh and bread dough.
So our journey began, and every time a tray needed greasing, a herb had to be picked or an egg needed cracking, I'd call her into the kitchen. Yes, we had some fun baking cupcakes, but really it was through doing these little jobs for me on a regular basis that she gained knowledge and confidence in the kitchen. Now, at seven, she has a good grounding in basic skills and, most importantly, she really enjoys cooking.
The great thing there is a whole range of subjects that can be tackled through the medium of cooking. For example maths. Children can measure ingredients with digital scales - far easier to manage than traditional ones. Also, if you are making anything that needs to be divided, or discussing how many people will be eating the dish, get your child to do the counting. Or how about geography? Talk about where ingredients or where recipes come from.
Then of course there's science. From whether produce grows above or below ground, to the chemical reaction when you mix ingredients together. And making sure all of the 'r' s are covered, older children can keep a recipe journal, or go through books and copy out the names of recipes they want to cook. You can also get them to write shopping lists or read the recipe
Just like learning a language or music, if you start children cooking from an early age, it becomes second nature. Of course it can get a bit messy and, for working parents, it can be hard to find the time. But the pay-off is that in years to come both my children will be able to cook with confidence and to feed themselves properly. My son, Jack, is now four, and to watch Maisie talk him through the kitchen techniques she has learned has completed the circle. The coup de grace was a wonderful meal made largely by the two of them for father's day. Yes, as you may have guessed my passion for this subject may not be entirely altruistic...
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