Could you do it, could you allow your child the freedom to make whatever they wanted? I thought I’d try it out and see what happens and share with you how to give your child free rein in the kitchen. Yes, call me crazy, but I’m aware that so much learning can happen when you strip away the rules and just let kids play and experiment. I’m often cooking in the kitchen with Possum (aged 4 years) and together I make sure we strictly follow a recipe, step by step, measuring with great accuracy. You see, I’m one of those perfectionist types who wouldn’t dream of straying from what a recipe asks for. Boring, I know!
How to give your child free rein in the kitchen
In some ways I think my personality trait is good, but can also be bad as it limits my confidence to take risks, which is a big part of learning. So to encourage Possum to be more of a risk taker and follow her instincts I thought I’d give her free rein in the kitchen. She was all eyes when I told her of my plan. Of course there needed to be a few simple guidelines to ensure the whole experiment was safe.
- All ingredients used needs to be edible
- Anything that required gas or electricity needs to be done by me (ovens, mixers etc)
- Any chopping was to be done with a kindy trainer knife, otherwise I take over
Aside from those few simple rules, she was free to use anything in the pantry, any of the cooking utensils she liked.
Recommended age: 3 years+ (Active supervision is required for this activity)
With clean hands. it was wonderful to see Possum decide on what she needed for her recipe. She picked a variety of random ingredients, many of which you’d not often see mixed together. My challenge was to step back and not get involved unless there was a safety reason to. Some of the ingredients that Possum added were – water, flour, sugar, orange juice, BBQ sauce, chocolate powder Doing this activity gave Possum an opportunity to really have a go at using a variety of cooking utensils. She carefully considered which utensil would be the best for the job required and went about it all with great seriousness. She talked through her actions just like a television cooking demonstration. What a great way to develop language skills! There was lots of experimenting going on and there didn’t seem like there was a clear outcome for what was to be made, which was totally exciting. Despite that, I found that Possum had a great awareness of what the consistency needed to be like and would add more liquid if the mixture seemed too dry and more flour if it needed more bulk. She was also very aware of using soy milk, so to cater for her younger sisters cow’s milk allergy. Throughout this experience Possum was using measuring cups, spoons and other helpful cooking equipment. It was a great watching her measure and use tools for measuring. Ah, yep…. hands in. It’s all great sensory exploration, right? Haha Once she was happy Possum decided they were going to be cakes and selected a star shaped mould from the wide variety of tins and pans I offered her. They we put them into the oven…. I was very unsure what the mixture would look like after they were baked through. I didn’t even know if they would cook properly, but they seemed to and looked….interesting! Possum was so delighted with the outcome and I was so proud of her for making something from scratch. Now I have to be honest, when I decided to carry out this activity I didn’t really think it would go beyond the cooking stage. It was only when Possum announced that they would be great to eat after dinner that it struck me, she actually expected us to eat these! Of course she would! And so we did ‘enjoy’ them one night after dinner. Possum seriously asks me almost daily if she can make something else in the kitchen. Giving her free rein of the kitchen was a wonderful (and memorable) learning experience and lots of fun.
Would you eat something your child made without a recipe?
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JARINA SOUNES says
I LOOOVVVEE THIS IDEA, I AM ALSO A BIT OF A PERFECTIONIST, SO ALWAYS FOLLOW A RECIPE, BUT IT WOULD BE VERY INTERESSTING TO SEE WHAT MY LITTLE COOK PUT TOGETHER, THANX FOR THIS IDEA…AND ALL THE OTHERS, I ENJOY THEM VERY MUCH.
Jarina, that’s so great you like this idea. It can be hard for us perfectionist to step out of our comfort zone, especially when kids are involved. I hope you get a chance to do this. You won’t regret it. It’s memory making stuff! 🙂
Thanks so much for your comment.
Hi Kate. I have three year old twins and I ‘try’ to cook with them – but my perfectionist mummy personality so often gets in the way, and ‘shouty mummy’ suddenly appears on the scene! I love the idea of giving them free rein in the kitchen and I am sure that it would be fab (except maybe for the post dinner sampling experience!!!), but I don’t know whether I could step back and let this happen!?!
Oh lovely Tara, how wonderful to hear from someone who sounds so much like myself! Thank you so much for your comment. I completely understand your hesitation, but it actually was such a positive experience for both myself and Possum that I’m SO thrilled I gave it a go. I can’t tell you how often my daughter talks about that day in the kitchen. She tells everyone about it and I always get that proud mummy moment when I see her beam with pride as she describes what she did to create ‘such delicious and flavouring’ cakes. LOL
I totally respect that you have double the work with twins, hello super mummy, but grab those wet wipes, fill your sink with water, put down towels if you need and go for it!!!! I promise that your kids will remember it forever….as will you I’m sure.
Let me know how you get on lovely. 🙂
Ah I love that addition of BBQ sauce! That is the best!
I really need to work on letting go in the kitchen too! Even with my 12 year old baker who really can follow a recipe on her own, I often feel the need to step in and make sure she is not ‘ruining’ it. Thanks for inspiring me to chill out!!!
“The BBQ sauce makes it lots more flavouring” – apparently. LOL
It’s totally hard to let go, I totally get it Kate. I just figure as well, we often give them freedom to create with paper, paint etc. This is just another way to go about it. Memory making stuff.
Oh I love this! She must have felt so proud to make you all something like that!! Well done mama xx
Thanks Kelly. She talks about it so often. We have done it again since but my oven broke about a week ago and so she wanted something that would set in the fridge like jelly. Lol Very cute.
I’m curious about how it tasted like… with the BBQ sauce? But really, sure it must be fun!
Oh it wasn’t good Belle. I think the BBQ sauce and the flour was not a good combination. Eek! It was lots of fun though. 🙂