Today's question comes from Amy, who writes:
"I know it's important to get my teen in the kitchen, but every time I try to cook with him, he seems so disinterested. What should I do?"
You're right Amy, it is important to get your teens into the kitchen - learning basic cooking skills like measuring ingredients, chopping vegetables, identifying proper tools to use - may all impact your teen's future eating habits. Sometimes, I think one of the reasons behind poor quality eating is that people are afraid of cooking with whole, real foods...the younger you can teach your child to prep food in the kitchen the better.
My short answer opinion is to be both patient and persistent with your teen. Here are some tips to show you what I mean:
- Ask compassionately and ask often. Think about it: somedays your desire to cook or learn a new skill is probably higher than others. And you probably don't want to cook if someone's forcing you to! Same with your child - just because he isn't interested one day doesn't mean he won't be the next.
- Let your teen pick the menu. Having your teen simply choose which foods to eat may lead to greater interest in the process!
- Make it less of a chore, more like fun. Allow your teen to do the part of the process that best relates to what his interests are. For example, if your teen loves math, double the recipe and let him make the conversions. If your teen is more into science, have him research the food science behind the recipe...why do apples turn brown, what makes bread rise, how do eggs actually scramble? If your teen is into art, have him“decorate” the plate at the end of the process or put together a meal with all of the colors of the rainbow (and we're talking natural colors here, not Skittles!).
- Host a themed cooking party. Have your teen invite his friends over so that they all learn to cook together. You may not want to call it a "cooking party," rather, center it around a certain theme like a holiday, sporting event, or type of cuisine (Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, Indian, etc.)
- Bring the finished product of your recipe to an event of the teen’s choosing, like an athletic event, school play, family get-together, or after school meeting. Positive reactions from classmates, friends, or family may fuel your teen’s desire to cook again.
Also, think about how you view cooking. If it's something you don't like to do or frequently stress about, your child will pick up on it...remember to lead by example!
I hope that gives a good A to your Q! Let me know how it goes and happy cooking!