Increasing Independence In Children – Cooking Dinner

Children Cooking Dinner

This post is part of a series of simple activities that can help increase your child’s independence. These activities are aimed at children aged two and above. Previous posts can be found below:

We have been teaching our eldest son Thinker, who is 10 to make an evening meal. He likes the idea of cooking dinner for the family and has been very proud of his results.

We have taken a staged approach to build up to him cooking the evening meal as follows:

Select The Meal To Cook.

We decided to let Thinker choose the meal he would like to cook. We felt that he would be more likely to enjoy the process if he actually loved the meal he was going to cook. He chose Tacos. This was a perfect choice for a first meal. It is simple, requires only minimal exposure to heat and at his age, after some practice he should be capable of cooking the meal completely on his own.

Watch Dad Cook The Meal.

Although cooking Tacos does not really need a recipe, Mr I made one for himself when he learnt to cook them (cooking is not his strong point!). You can print out the recipe from this link: Tacos Recipe.

We also made a conscious decision to let Mr I take him through cooking the meal. This was important for a couple of reasons. One was to show him that men can and do cook and secondly, Thinker is at a stage of his life where he is showing a distinct preference for being taught by his dad and not his mum. This does make me a little sad, but I need to respect that.

Thinker then watched his dad read the steps in the recipe and carry them out, asking questions along the way. He could also make some notes on the recipe, if he wanted to remember things for later.

Cooking With Assistance.

The next stage was for Thinker to lead the cooking process, but with an adult present for assistance. Dad stayed with him the whole time and offered advice when asked and prevented any major issues occurring.

Repeat Cooking.

I have found that to become skilled in cooking a particular meal that you need to cook it at regular intervals. Luckily all the children love Tacos, so they have been on high rotation on the menu plan and Thinker has been the head chef! Thinker cooked the meal three of times with ad hoc adult assistance.

Cooking By Himself.

We allowed Thinker to tell us when he felt that he was confident to cook by himself. Naturally mum and dad are there to help if needed, but there is no checking up on him and he is responsible for putting the meal together, including setting up the table for everyone to serve themselves.

At the moment we have been cooking the Tacos on the weekend. Once I feel that he has really mastered the meal, I will have him cook this one night during the week. This will be a tremendous help for me as I will be able to listen to the younger children’s reading, feed the baby etc while the meal is being cooked.

For Thinker this has been an important step in increasing his independence and life skills. When his siblings thank him for the tasty meal, you can see the pride in his face and sense of accomplishment he feels.

We will stick with him just cooking Tacos for a while and then will start the process over again. What meals have you got the kids whipping up for you?