If You Think Your Kids Are Too Young to Cook, Read This!
One of my girl’s favorite things to do is to make “slime.” Her second favorite thing is to make “potions” out of the special section of past-date dry goods I keep for her under my sink.
It’s no wonder really, ever since she was a baby she’s been creating in this way. To engage her senses and give her a thrill, I used to spread out towels on the kitchen floor and give her cornstarch, water and various innocuous dollar store spices and she would set out mixing and pouring and stirring her heart out!
She really enjoyed those days and she still does lots of mixing and measuring even today! She sees me in the kitchen chopping and mixing and creating and she loves to model the same behavior. The best part for her I think is the independence she feels from being able to choose what goes next in her creation and I always did my best to bite my tongue so I didn’t interfere in her discovery process.
Many people ask me if their children are too young to cook, and my answer is always that it’s never too early to start. It’s actually during this discovery process of touching different ingredients that young kids are getting to know what flour feels like, and what happens when you add water to flour and how to hold a spatula.
These are skills and experiences that we take for granted, but our babies enter the world with a blank slate. They have no past history to call upon for them to base their decisions on until we introduce them to new things.
During these “cooking” sessions, my girl enjoys the sensory input and the creative stimulation and these activities really help to ground her and calm her. Just think of it, when our hands are busy, that’s when we get our best ideas. Like when I’m washing dishes or driving, I always seem to get lots of ideas!!
So when your kids ask you if they can make "slime," here are some reasons why I encourage you to let them. I know you are cringing about the thought of all the mess, but you can contain it, and keep it reasonable. Here are some ideas for letting your kids get creative in the kitchen (or outside).
1) When setting up your “potion” invitation, contain the activity by setting it up on the floor with a sheet, or shower liner, or lots of towels. Take out the utensils and cups that you are willing to use and set the boundary letting the kids know that you aren’t going to take out anything else to use.
2) You can include some dry goods like corn starch, flour, oatmeal, beans, etc. and put them in different containers and set them up in your “invitation.” I would use water as the liquid and set the water in several cups for them to pour into their mixture.
Mixing all sorts of things can be fun, just today I was reminded of a soapy soup we made on a playdate!
3) Set up several dry towels for when the potion making is done, as you will want to get the major “schmutz” off their hands first before they wash their hands. If you don’t set this step up first, you run the risk of them touching walls and door handles with their messy hands on their way to washing their hands.
4) Try to let them experiment independently without too much input from you. You can encourage them for sure, however, as adults we often want to be helpful by giving them suggestions of what they can do when they play. But really, we want to let them have this experience for themselves. They know how to play and experience will be their teacher. If there’s a spoon or spatula available, they’ll figure out that they can use it to mix the potion.
5) Make the clean up process easy. Collect all the bowls and utensils and put them in the sink or counter. Shake all of the crumbs into the garbage or sink. Put the towels/sheets in your laundry basket. Then sweep up or vaccuum any leftover debris.
These times will make wonderful memories, and will also help them make sense of what things feel like and as a plus will relax and soothe them, too!
Do you think you’ll try it??