Both in my classes and cookbooks, the recipes are meant to be a hands-on activity for children although the constant attention of an adult is best.
- The younger the child the more attention must be given, but as much as possible children should be allowed to do all the steps that they can by themselves. I’ve noticed some adults—parents and "yayas"—are quick to step in and take over what the child could be doing by him or herself! Remember that some children move more slowly than others.
- Grown-up chores will be indicated in the recipe by way of any advance preparation that should be done for ingredients—slicing, peeling, chopping and so on. Steps that are physically difficult for children (creating a workspace appropriate for their height, getting ingredients and utensils from shelves beyond their reach, turning on the oven) or which involve high temperatures (putting baking sheets and pans in and out of the oven, removing hot food from their trays) are clearly grown-up tasks as well.
- Children aged seven and up should be able to read the recipes on their own but it would be good if a grown-up were to go through the procedure with them to make sure they understand all the instructions. For example, they will readily identify ‘1/2 cup’ on a measuring cup but may be unclear about measurements over a cup, such as ‘1 ½ cups’. Younger children will definitely need help in reading the recipes.
- Cooking with kids is messy, especially when they are measuring out ingredients, cracking eggs or mixing them all together. I don’t expect children to be neat and don’t make a fuss when a mess is unintentionally made. It is an inevitable part of the process and I would like children to be encouraged, not discouraged. Cleaning up the spills is a small price to pay for instilling in a child a life long love of cooking, the most practical of arts.
- Don’t expect or insist that children have perfect cooking results—that’s unnecessary pressure! I find the misshaped cookies and pizzas charming in themselves. Besides, with just a little bit of practice they will soon be yielding amazingly professional looking goods. It is very rewarding to watch them put together their own little creations, and their pride in their work becomes yours. Be sure to tell them how delicious the results are.
- Let the children choose what they want to cook because they are the best judges of what they want to eat. Never mind if they prefer to do desserts over salads or main dishes because the focus here is to get them excited about cooking in the first place. They will want to explore the other items as they get older. You can even get them involved in preparing their "baon"!
- My recipes are childproof in the sense that a little under mixing or over mixing, or a little inaccuracy in measuring ingredients will not be detrimental to the outcome.
- Ingredients that children tend to dislike, such as vegetables, are kept to a minimum. This should be kept in mind when making substitutions for unavailable ingredients.
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