By Tamar Teitelbaum of Candidly Delicious @candidlydeliciousbytamar
It’s evening time. The kids are in bed, and you are tired from the day. Walking into the kitchen, it’s time to start the Shavuot cooking; a few hours tonight, a few tomorrow night, and the food prep will be done. It’s quiet at night, but it can be lonely too. What if some of that cooking could be done during the day, with the helpful hands of your very own little ones?
Like all holidays, Shavuot cooking usually begins with a carefully planned menu and a cooking schedule, but have you considered how your kids will fit into that schedule? Including the children into some of your cooking time will not only create fun, family memories but you’ll be raising children that know how to cook for themselves.
As always, we want to encourage you to always supervise your children in the kitchen.
So, where to begin? How about salads. Children seven and up can help with chopping vegetables under your guidance. Begin by teaching them the proper way to hold a knife, where to put their other hand when they are cutting, etc. Safety first! If your child isn’t very steady, then you may want to wait a year or so before trying again. Seven-year-olds (and up) can even wash fruits and vegetables that don’t require much checking. By age 10, I start teaching how to check different types of produce as well.
Sauces and dressings can be mixed (or even shaken!) by the hands of little ones as young as two. I find that young ones love to whisk, and they can stand there diligently stirring, which frees up your hands for other things. Though, supervision is always important; my three-year-old will inevitably try to lick the whisk at one point.
Sides and Mains
Stirring of sauces is an all-ages activity. Place vegetables to roast on a pan, season them, then let the little ones mix them all up. Stirring hot foods on the stove should be reserved for ages 10 and up. Even if they understand fire and heat and getting burned, little ones are simply clumsier and it’s a bigger risk for them to get hurt. Ages 10 and up should also be able to cut up meats and measure ingredients. They should even be able to follow a recipe with guidance. This kind of help can really free up time for you!
Children 12 and up should be able to follow a recipe without your help! You can literally stay out of the kitchen and the dessert will appear like magic. Ages seven and up should be able to help with measuring ingredients, and all ages can help with mixing. When using an electric mixer, put the little one’s hands over yours as you mix. The experience is both sensory and educational; kids really love it! By age seven or eight, children should be able to use a hand mixer with only minimal guidance. I find that all ages really love to participate in baking. Children ages two through six can dump in ingredients, stir, and even help with sifting. They also make great taste testers, sometimes when you aren’t even looking!
For a fun and kid-friendly Shavuot dessert, try making ice cream in a baggie! In a quart bag, place a cup of half and half, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and one-and-a-half tablespoons of sugar. Seat it and mix by shaking a little. Now, in a gallon bag, place about three cups of ice and 1/3 cup of kosher salt. Put the smaller, sealed baggie inside the gallon bag with the ice. Now shake like mad until it turns into ice cream. I suggest you pass the bag around for shaking turns. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get smooth, creamy ice cream!
Cooking with the kids creates so many opportunities to teach life lessons. For example, teaching kitchen safety is so important. Children learn turn-taking, either with siblings or with you. Older children can work on math and fractions by measuring and interpreting baking recipes. New readers get a kick out of reading recipe lists. Whether they are following recipes or following your instructions, cooking together teaches kids to follow directions. For older ones that are cooking more independently, they learn about responsibility and gain a great sense of pride. I always have a boxed baking mix buried in a cupboard, so that my 10-year-old can independently bake anytime she wants, even if I’m not available. And she has learned so much from us baking together as well. I think that soon she won’t even need the box!
With kids in the kitchen, it is important that we as parents frame our mindset the right way before getting started. Expect a bit of a mess, expect mistakes, and expect a lot of laughing too! Take a deep breath and remember, kids can help with the clean-up; wiping counters, washing dishes, sweeping and mopping the floors. Messes are cleanable. Licked measuring cups are washable. But the family bonding time is irreplaceable and will create memories that last a lifetime.