When I decided to become a work-from-home dad so I could spend more time with my children, I started thinking about how, apart from just playing with them, we could have more constructive time together. Well, I found a recipe for success.
My 3-year-old son, Noah, has always played with our cooking pots and his toy kitchen. Most of the games he created revolved around him being a cook. In the evenings, when I make dinner, Noah would climb up on a chair and stand beside me, watching me peel an onion or prepare a sauté, observing everything I do. I thought that this could be “our thing.” Cooking with dad could mean having fun and talking but, at the same time, I could provide him with a new stimuli.
Teaching cooking to my child seemed like a natural progression along the Montessori education path he began in kindergarten. At school, he is taught independence, taking responsibility for his work-space and learning directly from personal experience even when it involves making mistakes. For example, in his school, they use actual glass plates and cups and metal utensils; after meals, they clean the space where they have eaten, and so on.
I started involving Noah in the culinary process. We started going shopping together. Here he learned the names of the various vegetables and brands we use. I explained the differences between products and what was needed to cook a particular dish. I gave him small tasks in the kitchen such as cleaning the garlic (a lot harder than it seems), peeling onions (teaching the tricks that prevent tears, too), and cutting parsley (using a sharp plastic knife). His pride and satisfaction grew with every task. We gradually increased the complexity of things like cleaning fish.
Teaching cooking to my child … and others — online
Yes, there may be a bit of disorder when teaching cooking to children. It certainly takes more time to clean when Noah is helping, but the benefit that he has gained has been remarkable, both in terms of concentration and also accountability. When, for example, Noah has to open an egg he knows he has to carefully crack the egg, perfectly with no mess or fragments of shells going all over the place (this took practice, many adults still haven’t mastered this). When chopping a chili pepper he knows exactly how cautiously to handle work it. Trust me, he learned this through trial and error.
Noah’s adventures cooking with me in the kitchen became regular moments of bonding with my son. So why not share it with all? We started “Noah Cooks,” a YouTube channel (see video above) that could become a source of inspiration for others and, judging from the feedback and requests we receive, it’s working. Some of my friends have also started to introduce their children to the kitchen so I feel proud of being an inspiration.
Putting this on video has also allowed Noah to express his personality, a real bonus considering he is naturally shyer than his older brother. Cooking has allowed him to channel his interest in preparing food and the process of cooking even if ironically, like many chefs, he is not even a big eater.
About the author
Federico Bastiani is a freelance journalist, based in Italy, with a degree in economics from University of Pisa. His work has appeared in local and international publications, including the NYC Dads Group blog. He has two children. You can contact him through his website and follow him on Twitter.
Teaching cooking to Noah photos: Federico Bastiani.