Mother’s Day is coming, that one day in the year when our kids (and husband) make sure us moms get to put up our feet and simply enjoy our day. As we celebrate this Sunday in lockdown mode, we’ll be looking forward to having our kids pamper us all day, perhaps with breakfast in bed, a feast of our favorite dishes cooked from scratch, and a relaxing back rub to end the day. But being stuck at home is a great way to have our kids get busy preparing the food, not just for us moms on Mother’s Day, but for the rest of the week too.
So, this lockdown is as good a time as any to teach our kids to become self-sufficient in the kitchen. Remember, they don’t have to become the next Martha Stewart or Jamie Oliver. The end goal is independence and empowerment in making their own food choices as they grow into adulthood.
Just be warned though, your kids may think they already know how to cook from watching countless cooking videos on YouTube, but until they do it IRL, it doesn’t count! To get you started, here’s a very basic checklist of skills your kids can get started on to get comfortable in the kitchen.
Get Your Kids To Cook
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1. Cook safely and cleanly
Safety and hygiene matters, especially if your kids will be left alone in the kitchen. The main dangers come in the form of heat and sharp pointy things—touching hot pans with bare hands, forgetting to turn off the stove or oven, dropping knives on the floor, or even worse, cutting themselves. And cleanliness is a given—washing their hands, cleaning their area as they cook, keeping raw food separate from cooked food, and washing everything afterwards.
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2. Properly use the stove and oven
The stove and oven (or oven toaster) are likely your most used appliances at home. Have your kids learn how to turn them on and off, control the temperature, and most importantly, follow safety precautions.
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3. Reheat food
Before even cooking something from scratch, your kids can first practice with leftovers. Should they reheat leftover pizza in the toaster oven or in the microwave? How long does it take to warm up leftover soup on the stove? It’s a great way for them to gauge temperature and cooking times—an essential cooking skill. And don’t fret if the frozen chicken adobo you asked them to heat up is still half frozen, it’s all part of the learning!
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4. Cook rice
For us Filipinos, this is probably the most important of survival skills. But don’t just teach your kids how to cook rice in a rice cooker. Make sure they know how to cook rice in a pot over the stove, too. And don’t forget to show them the time-tested “finger method” in measuring the rice-to-water ratio!
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5. Prepare noodles and pasta
Your kids may already have a predilection for instant noodles, but we all know they’re not the healthiest. Let them learn how to boil spaghetti noodles, then heat up store-bought or leftover pasta sauce for an instant meal. Or they can cook egg noodles, then mix in some oyster sauce, leftover veggies and ham, as a “starter” to learning how to make a proper pancit later on. An added benefit—your kids learn how to adjust seasonings and experiment with flavor combinations.
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6. Make a proper breakfast
Breakfast is a great way for kids to ratchet up their expertise from beginner to expert, plus a good excuse to get them out of bed earlier than usual. A “beginner” level breakfast can start with toasting pandesal in the oven toaster with cheese melting on top, peeling or cutting fruit, and an added bonus of brewing coffee or preparing hot chocolate. Then they can move on to cooking eggs—scrambled, sunny side up, omelet style—which is always fun. Once they master eggs, they can graduate to pan-frying breakfast meats like longaniza, tocino, tapa, even daing na isda, plus making garlic fried rice or sinangag for a complete Filipino breakfast. And then, the final test—pancakes!
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7. Follow a recipe
Your kids now know the basics (and will not starve in case they’re left home alone for the day), and feel more confident around the kitchen. And that may be all the motivation they need to voluntarily cook their own favorite dishes. As I like to tell my kids, “If you want a certain dish cooked at home, then why don’t you learn how to cook it yourself?” Let’s say, your son is craving hot buffalo wings. He can look for a recipe from one of your cookbooks, or find a recipe online, and have him follow it to a tee, even in sourcing the ingredients. There’s nothing more empowering than your child finding out they can follow a recipe from start to finish, and come out with a successful dish. Once they feel that, then there’s no stopping them!
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As I’ve found with my own children, the key to getting them to becoming self-sufficient is their own motivation to learn. If they’re not that interested in cooking, then at least you’ve taught them enough to survive. But if they find cooking enjoyable, then there’s no end in sight. My eldest daughter is proof of that. Since the lockdown, she has been baking bread and pastries, preparing her fave Japanese dishes, experimenting with her own milk tea (complete with pearls), and perfecting homebrewed espressos and café lattes—and my whole family couldn’t be happier.