How I use cooking to encourage independence

Raising children is a lifelong lesson in letting go. From the moment they are born, our instinct is to protect them, to shield them, to make their lives easier. We help them with as much as we can — not because we are overprotective — but, because we love them and want them to succeed.

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Ultimate success, however, comes by stepping back, and letting our kids do more on their own. Each age offers new opportunities for growth, and each family can decide what works best for them.

I look out for signs from my kids to guide me about when they might be ready to try new tasks. So, when my son, who is five, started insisting on making meatballs on his on, I let him.

My son has been helping his father and I make meatballs — one of the few things he actually eats — for the past year or so. He is familiar with the ingredients, recipe and technique.

Although my nerves made it tough for me to step back, I let my son do his thing. I watched as he carefully added each ingredient and mixed them all together. Even his egg cracking was superb. Not one shell!

Because of the maturity he showed, I agreed to let my son turn on the stove. This was probably the biggest deal for me, since we are talking about fire here. My fears quickly dissipated, as my son demonstrated masterful skill at adding each meatball to the sizzling pan.

I stepped in when needed. I helped add ingredients when my son’s hands were messy, and assisted with flipping the meatballs, which proved a bit tricky for him.

At this point, I must confess I am not much of a carnivore, so I can’t vouch for how they tasted, but judging by how eagerly the rest of the family gobbled them up, I’d say they were a hit.

The next challenge for myself and my son is to let him do more baking on his own. This is an activity that requires a lot of patience, the ability to understand measurements and the maturity to work an oven.

I hope by encouraging a love for cooking, I might eventually encourage a broader appreciation for food. For now, I am happy with how far my son has come.

If you’d like to see my son in action, check out this short video I made:

Look out for more stuff on my YouTube channel as my video skills (hopefully) improve.

If you have a recipe you would us to try, feel free to share it in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “How I use cooking to encourage independence

  1. livewellplaytogether

    I love this post! I try to let my little one help me cook whenever I can – it really is a great way to teach independence. i love that he is learning about using recipes and following instructions and he always feels so proud when he “cooks” dinner!

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