Author Topic: Cooking tasks for medium kids  (Read 3044 times)

milliemchi

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Cooking tasks for medium kids
« on: April 11, 2017, 10:28:52 PM »
(This is an offshoot of an earlier topic on meal planning.)

Long story short, I plan to take back the cooking responsibility in the Fall. I had a good system going the school year of 2015/16 (cook weekly meals on the weekend, all at the same time), and 2017/18 is going to be even better because I will give hubby the shopping responsibility. Even better, this coming year, I will involve the kids, so Saturday mornings are going to be part useful work, part bonding, part teaching. I really think kids need to learn to cook basic stuff (fried eggs, vegetable soup, etc.), some basic skills (handling knives: cutting, chopping, peeling; pairing spices with dishes, etc.), and some basic attitudes (cooking from scratch, cooking non-fancy meals, cooking without a recipe, are fine). You get the idea. At the very least, it's important to witness someone doing these things, so that they know it can be done. I witnessed my grandmother cook all kinds of meals from scratch and from memory, and it's come in handy 10-35 years later when I cooked my own food. I also witnessed her shelling green peas, peeling plums cooked in hard water, baking liver over rice, and while I don't do these things, my horizons are certainly expanded.

So, the bonding/teaching... Kids need to be actively involved. The older will be 12 in the fall, and already cooks basic things like scrambled eggs, willingly and of her own volition. She can probably do most tasks, but needs to practice the physical acts of handling stuff. The younger one will be an old 5, and likes being involved in the cooking. If given all the time in the world, he can already peel potatoes using the peeler, peel hard boiled eggs with mixed success, wash vegetables/fruits, etc.

So the question is, what tasks can I give them that a) are manageable at their age, and b) won't stretch the 3.5h sessions into 5h. Some ideas for the little one are:
- peeling/washing as he already can do
- getting started at mixing things without spilling much (with me finishing up)
- stirring stuff occasionally while it cooks
- measuring (I don't do much of that)
- moving chopped ingredients into pots
- setting up and watching the timer

Most of the other work will be chopping, which I will involve my older one with. I will have to set up two work surfaces, so I don't have to wait for her to finish in order to do my stuff.

I would welcome any experience/suggestions/advice.

chrisgermany

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 11:56:03 PM »
I would not split a normal meal into different tasks for each kid and yourself.
Rather let them be involved in the decision taking: let them decide about one of their favourite meals, let them discuss about who does what and stay in the background.
Let them try to figure out how to do each task on their own as much as possible, even if you think it may be not the best way.
Make it interesting and fun to be in the kitchen together.

Cranky

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2017, 05:24:39 AM »
5 year olds like to make instant pudding. They are also very good dishwasher unloaders.

But I teach 12 year olds to cook, and they can do anything if you break it down into steps and show them how. Do not assume that they understand what cooking terms mean. Insist that they read a recipe all the way through to the end before they start anything. Remind them that when they make a mess, they need to clean it up.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2017, 06:31:22 AM »
My friend's 5 year old made me chili, including preparing the meat.  She started on knife skills as a 4 year old.  Obviously she is supervised in the kitchen.  Her 9 year old cooks without an adult present.

In slightly less extreme ends, my daisy's and brownies (K-3 grade) regularly make pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, hamburgers, casseroles and cobblers without help except trimming/butchering meat (they use knives, but not a chefs knife)

A 12 year old can be independent in the kitchen, once you teach them how to safely do that.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2017, 06:33:40 AM by iowajes »

Laura33

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2017, 07:09:43 AM »
Caveat that this is based on my own experience and your kid might be different.  But when my kid hit 12, we were past the "work happily with mom all day" stage -- anything I asked her to do was a chore/burden, any advice I gave was taken as personal criticism, etc.  So I would be hesitant to rely on a plan that assumes she will work happily as your sous chef, following your orders, all day.

For my kid, what worked was turning her loose.  By that age, she could do all of the basic tasks.  So I taught her how to read a recipe, and how to get all of the stuff together beforehand, and all of that.  And then I told her that because she was so grown-up, she was now responsible for making us dinner once a week.   I planned for a day that I could work at home, so when DD came home from school, she had about 3 hrs to get a fairly simple recipe done (she chose lemon rosemary chicken); I was in the study on the computer, so accessible when she had questions, but otherwise out of her hair. 

And, boy, that was night and day -- we went from fussing and whining and butting heads to her being happy and proud of what she could do.  Of course it takes 3x longer than when I do it (so by all means do NOT try to work this into your cooking day!), and I have to stop myself from offering "helpful" advice.  But DD took the reins and really ran with it.  So now the things I help with are the larger planning things, like how to put together a menu for the week, how to plan the timing for different things you are cooking at the same time, remembering to check to make sure you have all the ingredients before you start, remembering to let me know what she wants to cook before I go grocery store, etc.

For the 5-year-old, sounds like it is time to move on to chopping -- learning how to use a knife properly and safely is an awesome skill to have.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2017, 07:12:41 AM »
My 4 yo is an excellent chopper. YMMV. The 5 year old less so, and the other 4 yo less so. It's one in particular that's really good at making the pieces all the same size. So I would say, if you have some time, teach alllll the things just to see if he has a natural affinity for it. With the chopping, I just spotted at first and taught him about keeping fingers out of the way and they picked it up really fast.

Trifele

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2017, 07:24:31 AM »
We had a similar experience as Laura33.  Our daughter was ready to be turned loose at 12, so we did.   She's now 13 and cooks one of the family meals each week. She gets to decide what to cook and loves it.  They are simple meals -- spaghetti with a side dish, stir fry, pizza, etc., but they are fantastic.

Our son (now 11) shares a cooking night with DH.  He is getting closer to being independent but not quite there yet. On their cooking night, DH is the assistant, and does what our son asks.

I say teach 'em, and turn 'em loose. 

JAYSLOL

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2017, 09:11:37 AM »
I would not split a normal meal into different tasks for each kid and yourself.
Rather let them be involved in the decision taking: let them decide about one of their favourite meals, let them discuss about who does what and stay in the background.
Let them try to figure out how to do each task on their own as much as possible, even if you think it may be not the best way.
Make it interesting and fun to be in the kitchen together.

+1

BlueHouse

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2017, 12:59:26 PM »
I would teach them some basic skills in efficiency in the kitchen.  A previous thread opened my eyes to the possibility that an entire meal can be cooked without using (and then having to clean) every dish in the house.  I think the book recommended was "How to Cook Everything Fast". 
I truly think that my mother's cooking style really turned me off of cooking.  If I had to clean up after dinner, I would say I had already eaten, and then just make a PB&J for myself.  I mean, I friggin hate cleaning and that woman can use 3 colanders just to rinse off a handful of berries!  So if this is something that bothers your kids, focus on the efficient ways to cook and clean. 

For many of you, this may seem like common sense, but it really wasn't to me.
   

Heroes821

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2017, 02:03:47 PM »
While I'm still getting my wife (the house cook) into the idea of the children handling knives with supervision.  The 8 year old always wants to cook and help and after reading this thread I think I'll task her with actually handling things on the stove now, BUT she LOVES to grill. Hot dogs, burgers, w/e.  We're not talking grill master watch temperatures perfection grilling, but she knows how to light the grill and turn things and keep an eye so they don't burn or catch fire.  I like the grill cooking because it's a lot easier to clean up and being at 500 degrees it cooks faster too which is important for ADHD cooks imo. 

The 4 year old.. maybe it's time he learned to chop, but he was peeling potatoes for the first time not too long ago.

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2017, 02:25:56 PM »
I prefer 'em medium rare.

Juslookin

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2017, 08:44:15 PM »
I agree, at 12 they can learn to follow a recipe. We did this with our kids and now DS almost 19 does his own recipe finding and grocery shopping and cooks all his lunches for the week on one day. He loves how much money he can save and is always trying new things.

Here's a fun thing we used to do. Give the kids a shopping and cooking challenge. Give them so much money and search recipes and than take them shopping for their ingredients. The challenge is to cook a relatively healthy meal for however many dollars you give them. Make up your rules, ours were protein and veggies had to be included. The kids used to love that, learned to watch their money, find recipes. My super shy little girl even asked the butcher for $3.00 of ground chicken once because she needed a specific amount and not a whole package for her recipe to stay on budget. My kids loved this, we started when they were about 7 and 9. Kids can do a lot with supervision and encouragement! Have fun!

BlueHouse

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2017, 10:49:51 AM »
Also want to add that a prep course on kitchen safety and hygiene might be helpful too.  I'm betting that these are things that you "teach as you go" so that they just become habits, and that's great.  But it might also be helpful to make it Step 1 of anything you do in the kitchen.
Step 1.  Tie hair back to get it out of the way and to make sure it doesn't get caught in any spinning appliances.
Step 2.  How to properly wash and dry a knife - I only learned this 2 years ago in a knife skills class.  My 9-year old niece, who cooks more than I do, uses a finger and everytime I wince, she tells me "it's okay Aunt BlueHouse, see?  I didn't get cut!"   Yikes!
Step 3.  How to keep a clean workstation - including keeping a folded towel in the same place every time you cook.?  (Not sure if this is really a thing.  I think I saw this on a cooking show, and it does seem to help)


milliemchi

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2017, 11:45:08 AM »
Also want to add that a prep course on kitchen safety and hygiene might be helpful too.  I'm betting that these are things that you "teach as you go" so that they just become habits, and that's great.  But it might also be helpful to make it Step 1 of anything you do in the kitchen.
Step 1.  Tie hair back to get it out of the way and to make sure it doesn't get caught in any spinning appliances.
Step 2.  How to properly wash and dry a knife - I only learned this 2 years ago in a knife skills class.  My 9-year old niece, who cooks more than I do, uses a finger and everytime I wince, she tells me "it's okay Aunt BlueHouse, see?  I didn't get cut!"   Yikes!
Step 3.  How to keep a clean workstation - including keeping a folded towel in the same place every time you cook.?  (Not sure if this is really a thing.  I think I saw this on a cooking show, and it does seem to help)

Umm... How do you clean a knife other than using fingers? I use a sponge to lather it, but I rinse using my fingers. I go from the dull side down to the sharp side, and sometimes along the edge. I never cut myself, but we're not known to have the sharpest knives.

As for the folded towel, is that to wipe the surface every so often? Or to dry veggies, etc., after cutting? I figure that wouldn't work if you're switching meat and other ingredients, and a cotton towel would quickly become useless after getting wet. I use a sponge cloth that is easily rinsed, is very absorbent, etc. It's a magically useful thing, but now I wonder if I'm missing something. After meats, I wash the surface with a lathered sponge.

BlueHouse

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2017, 12:16:39 PM »
Also want to add that a prep course on kitchen safety and hygiene might be helpful too.  I'm betting that these are things that you "teach as you go" so that they just become habits, and that's great.  But it might also be helpful to make it Step 1 of anything you do in the kitchen.
Step 1.  Tie hair back to get it out of the way and to make sure it doesn't get caught in any spinning appliances.
Step 2.  How to properly wash and dry a knife - I only learned this 2 years ago in a knife skills class.  My 9-year old niece, who cooks more than I do, uses a finger and everytime I wince, she tells me "it's okay Aunt BlueHouse, see?  I didn't get cut!"   Yikes!
Step 3.  How to keep a clean workstation - including keeping a folded towel in the same place every time you cook.?  (Not sure if this is really a thing.  I think I saw this on a cooking show, and it does seem to help)

Umm... How do you clean a knife other than using fingers? I use a sponge to lather it, but I rinse using my fingers. I go from the dull side down to the sharp side, and sometimes along the edge. I never cut myself, but we're not known to have the sharpest knives.

As for the folded towel, is that to wipe the surface every so often? Or to dry veggies, etc., after cutting? I figure that wouldn't work if you're switching meat and other ingredients, and a cotton towel would quickly become useless after getting wet. I use a sponge cloth that is easily rinsed, is very absorbent, etc. It's a magically useful thing, but now I wonder if I'm missing something. After meats, I wash the surface with a lathered sponge.
oh gosh, I only went to one knife skills class, so I'm no expert...but it made sense to me. 
Wash and rinse the chef's knife as you've described, and to dry: 
Keep your clean(ish) cloth on the table, lay your knife down on the cloth on the table, fold part of the cloth over the knife edge (still being mindful of which direction the blade is facing), press down softly on a nice thick chunk of the dishtowel and pull your knife out from the middle of the towel to dry it. 

I don't know whether that's the right way or not, but it definitely feels a lot safer to keep that blade out of my hand while I'm dragging it across the drying towel. 

As for the towel...I use it for just about everything now ... drying my hands after getting them wet, drying the knife, wiping up small spills from the counter to keep work area clean, if I need to grab a hot pot quickly - I know exactly where that towel is every time, etc.  If I need more than one towel, just get another when this one is too wet or too dirty.  It's just become a handy thing to always have in the same location -- like a habit.  Maybe that's why it's meant to be more efficient? 

I'm definitely no expert!

milliemchi

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #15 on: April 13, 2017, 12:38:22 PM »
Also want to add that a prep course on kitchen safety and hygiene might be helpful too.  I'm betting that these are things that you "teach as you go" so that they just become habits, and that's great.  But it might also be helpful to make it Step 1 of anything you do in the kitchen.
Step 1.  Tie hair back to get it out of the way and to make sure it doesn't get caught in any spinning appliances.
Step 2.  How to properly wash and dry a knife - I only learned this 2 years ago in a knife skills class.  My 9-year old niece, who cooks more than I do, uses a finger and everytime I wince, she tells me "it's okay Aunt BlueHouse, see?  I didn't get cut!"   Yikes!
Step 3.  How to keep a clean workstation - including keeping a folded towel in the same place every time you cook.?  (Not sure if this is really a thing.  I think I saw this on a cooking show, and it does seem to help)

Umm... How do you clean a knife other than using fingers? I use a sponge to lather it, but I rinse using my fingers. I go from the dull side down to the sharp side, and sometimes along the edge. I never cut myself, but we're not known to have the sharpest knives.

As for the folded towel, is that to wipe the surface every so often? Or to dry veggies, etc., after cutting? I figure that wouldn't work if you're switching meat and other ingredients, and a cotton towel would quickly become useless after getting wet. I use a sponge cloth that is easily rinsed, is very absorbent, etc. It's a magically useful thing, but now I wonder if I'm missing something. After meats, I wash the surface with a lathered sponge.
oh gosh, I only went to one knife skills class, so I'm no expert...but it made sense to me. 
Wash and rinse the chef's knife as you've described, and to dry: 
Keep your clean(ish) cloth on the table, lay your knife down on the cloth on the table, fold part of the cloth over the knife edge (still being mindful of which direction the blade is facing), press down softly on a nice thick chunk of the dishtowel and pull your knife out from the middle of the towel to dry it. 

I don't know whether that's the right way or not, but it definitely feels a lot safer to keep that blade out of my hand while I'm dragging it across the drying towel. 

As for the towel...I use it for just about everything now ... drying my hands after getting them wet, drying the knife, wiping up small spills from the counter to keep work area clean, if I need to grab a hot pot quickly - I know exactly where that towel is every time, etc.  If I need more than one towel, just get another when this one is too wet or too dirty.  It's just become a handy thing to always have in the same location -- like a habit.  Maybe that's why it's meant to be more efficient? 

I'm definitely no expert!

OK, so I get it with washing/drying the knife, especially with a clean towel. We actually have a stock of kitchen towels that we slowly go through and then wash all at once. We take from the 'clean' pile, use for a while, let dry, and put on the 'dirty' pile. I've imagined those to be strictly for clean jobs, such as drying clean hands, and I've been giving my husband a hard time because they end up gray from whatever he's doing. But maybe I need to relax. They just get so dirty and can't be washed w/o chlorine bleach.

BlueHouse

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2017, 05:38:17 PM »
We actually have a stock of kitchen towels that we slowly go through and then wash all at once. We take from the 'clean' pile, use for a while, let dry, and put on the 'dirty' pile. I've imagined those to be strictly for clean jobs, such as drying clean hands, and I've been giving my husband a hard time because they end up gray from whatever he's doing. But maybe I need to relax. They just get so dirty and can't be washed w/o chlorine bleach.
I do the same with the towels!  After my first month in my new house, all of my nice white dishtowels were stained with coffee from my many houseguests  (WHO wipes up coffee with a white dishtowel!!!!???  There's a sponge right in the sink!!!!!)  I cried to my sister about it and for my birthday the following month, she gave me a boatload of black dishtowels, matching black potholders, black oven mitts, etc.  I had a hard time thinking of anything other than white towels, but I'm over that now.  Black towels for the kitchen is the way to go!  And all of my white (coffee stained) dishtowels went to the animal shelter.  No regrets

milliemchi

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #17 on: April 14, 2017, 09:16:53 PM »
We actually have a stock of kitchen towels that we slowly go through and then wash all at once. We take from the 'clean' pile, use for a while, let dry, and put on the 'dirty' pile. I've imagined those to be strictly for clean jobs, such as drying clean hands, and I've been giving my husband a hard time because they end up gray from whatever he's doing. But maybe I need to relax. They just get so dirty and can't be washed w/o chlorine bleach.
I do the same with the towels!  After my first month in my new house, all of my nice white dishtowels were stained with coffee from my many houseguests  (WHO wipes up coffee with a white dishtowel!!!!???  There's a sponge right in the sink!!!!!)  I cried to my sister about it and for my birthday the following month, she gave me a boatload of black dishtowels, matching black potholders, black oven mitts, etc.  I had a hard time thinking of anything other than white towels, but I'm over that now.  Black towels for the kitchen is the way to go!  And all of my white (coffee stained) dishtowels went to the animal shelter.  No regrets

Yes, yes... and thanks for bringing up black dishtowels, I'll try that next. Our current ones are actually a set of pastel-colored baby bath towels, and it's better than white, but the brown still shows.

MerryMcQ

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #18 on: April 14, 2017, 10:27:09 PM »
My 12 year old regularly makes food he likes, which includes crepes, red beans and rice, potato fries (baked), waffles,  and fresh baked bread (using a kitchen aid stand mixer to kneed the dough). When I walked in on him teaching himself to bake bread from a book last year  (because it was a mile to the store and he wanted french bread but didn't want to walk in the rain), I pretty much figured he could cook anything. The dish washing, though...

At 5, I didn't trust either kid around sharp knives or boiling water. Or taking hot pans from the oven. Mostly they used butter knives for cutting. Lots of sandwiches, washing fruit and veggies... Helping layer lasagna or roll out dough. That kind of thing.



Poundwise

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2017, 05:48:00 AM »
This is a great thread!! My husband taught my oldest to fry pancakes when he was 10 or 11, and he was very proud.  Nowadays, he can cook very well (mostly desserts) from a recipe, and quite often makes breakfast (eggs, waffles, bacon) for everyone. I can also rely on him to finish cooking dinner if I have to run out on an errand... it's a huge help. He especially likes to show off for guests. He doesn't cook meat that often because he gets grossed out, but he has made a respectable chicken saute on occasion.

My 8 year old uses the microwave and toaster oven, and loves to measure and stir for me. He pares vegetables (now well enough that he doesn't want to do it anymore! :P ) and would like to start chopping with the sharp knife but as his fine motor control is a little behind, I've been putting that off. He's also very proud to make instant pudding from a mix. I need to teach him how to make brownies from a mix, too. I could probably teach him to make rice krispie squares using the microwave. I think these are all tasks a well coordinated 5 year old could learn, too.

LadyStache in Baja

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2017, 03:47:08 PM »
Regarding the towel in a handy spot, I keep one tucked into my pants in the front. Just throwing it out there :) I use it for everything milliemchi suggested (grabbing hot things, wiping an icky hand before grabbing a utensil or handle, wiping a knife, etc).  Definitely gonna get black towels for my vacation rental. In fact, I already got gray towels for the shower. Might as well go dark gray or black for the sheets too!

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2017, 10:43:41 AM »
At 5, I didn't trust either kid around sharp knives or boiling water. Or taking hot pans from the oven. Mostly they used butter knives for cutting. Lots of sandwiches, washing fruit and veggies... Helping layer lasagna or roll out dough. That kind of thing.

+1
I have a  ~5' height requirement for the oven/boiling things on the stovetop. It's not that my 8 year old wouldn't be careful, but he's not tall enough to reach over the oven door/have his face high enough above the stove to not be burned by spatters, etc.

jeninco

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2017, 12:28:35 PM »
Maybe mustachian, maybe not, but at one point I called up a local lady who teaches kids' cooking classes and asked for a class that was not desserts, but was several meals the kids could learn to cook. Then I arranged a group of 4 or 6 kids, including mine. They spent the first hour or two working on knife skills (and, incidentally chopping up everything they'd need for the three recipes they made) and then next two making three dinners worth of main dishes.

But I have kids who would not want to learn knife skills from me, and it wouldn't go well. YMMV.

Now the 16-year old makes dinner one night per week. I supply a recipe (sometimes he chooses, sometimes not) and the ingredients. Then, as has been mentioned, I'm available for consulting but not too close. The 13-year old is raring to go (it's linked to an allowance increase) but has fewer available nights per week right now.

I'd say let 'em pick dinners they like, and provide appropriate (and diminishing over time) support. They'll do great!

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Re: Cooking tasks for medium kids
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2017, 12:40:41 PM »
Two ideas- why not have your 12 year old responsible for all or part of a dish.  For example, you make the meat and she is in charge of prepping the sauce or the sides.  Gives the option of being in charge but w/ limits and supervision.

for the 5 year old- why not make them the mis-en-place expert.  reading (or you reading) the ingredients and them bringing everything to the counter.  It teaches them about reading the recipe but also uses all that energy running around (not a quiet/ still task).