Teaching middle schoolers how to cook doesn’t have to be complicated. Do what you can to make your time in the kitchen together as simple and fun as possible.
6th-8th grade is the perfect time to focus on teaching cooking skills because tweens are old enough to take it seriously and follow directions, yet young enough that they’ll think it’s cool to be making meals for themselves and the family.
Why Teaching Middle Schoolers How to Cook is Important
When kids don’t learn how to cook, they become adults who can’t find their way around a kitchen. Therefore, they’ll rely heavily on takeout and prepared foods, which are less healthy and more expensive than meals cooked from scratch.
Once they’re older, they’ll be busy with other responsibilities, making it harder for them to find the time and desire to master the cooking process. So, the earlier you start teaching kids this important life skill, the better.
Don’t Do Everything Yourself – Let Them Be The Chef
As you begin, it may make sense for them to help you by being the sous chef, but I would encourage you to let them take the lead as quickly as possible. Above all, tweens want to feel like they’re doing something important, therefore, they’ll get frustrated if you keep them on the smaller parts of a recipe for too long, like only doing prep work or making sauces.
Although it may be faster to do it yourself, when you’re in the kitchen with your kids, let them cook. Repetition is the only way for them to learn and improve.
Make a Cooking Plan With Your Tween
One of the easiest ways to get started is to sit down with your tweens and ask them what they’d like to learn. Together, brainstorm a bunch of ideas, pick a few and write them down. This list will give you a place to begin and a way to stay focused.
To simplify the brainstorming process, encourage your kids to think in terms of categories. For example, ask them about different cooking methods they find interesting, favorite meals they want to make, or specific mealtimes they enjoy.
Here are some ideas to help get you started.
Methods of Cooking
When your kids think of the foods they enjoy, which cooking techniques are used? Choose a couple of methods to focus on and find recipes that incorporate them.
- slow cooking fundamentals
What are some of your tween’s favorite dishes? Start with some of those to get her excited to be in the kitchen.
- childhood favorites
- copycat restaurant recipes
- special occasion dishes
Which meal has your child’s most loved food? Focus on that when choosing recipes to cook together. Remember that you don’t have to stick to traditional time frames when making meals. If your tween isn’t a morning person but loves breakfast, there’s nothing wrong with pancakes for dinner.
Keep Cooking Lessons Simple and Practical
The best way to teach middle schoolers how to cook is by spending time in the kitchen together. You don’t have to have a detailed plan or an expensive curriculum. In other words, just choose some recipes and jump right in.
Most importantly, kids don’t want to sit around listening to a lecture on cooking. They want to be hands-on, so get them into the kitchen and let them create something. Yes, they’ll make mistakes, but they’ll learn from them.
Plus, when you’re working side-by-side with your tween, you can incorporate fundamentals like kitchen safety and knife skills into a fun cooking session. Tweens appreciate practical lessons, so they’ll be more receptive to learning something new if it relates directly to what they’re working on, rather than a stand-alone task.
For example, teach them the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon and why they won’t want to mix them up as you’re reading through the recipe together.
Personally, mine got a kick out of the story of how I once mixed up salt and sugar in a cookie recipe and tried to make them taste better by topping them with Cool Whip. Spoiler alert – they didn’t taste any better.
Show them how to cut an onion when one is needed for a dish so it’s necessary and relatable, not just a random skill you want them to learn. That way they can practice and add it directly to the meal.
Make Cooking Fun for Tweens
Whatever method you use for teaching middle schoolers how to cook, remember to make it fun. Chances are that they’ll want to keep cooking if they enjoy their time in the kitchen.
One idea to make cooking exciting is to turn your lessons into a competition.
Choose one of your family’s favorite cooking show and bring it to your kitchen. Recreate a dish that contestants failed at making, put together a “basket” of ingredients and challenge your tween to turn them into a dish, blindfold them and feed them eat a variety of items to see how many they can identify, or choose a theme, like comfort food, and go head to head to see whose dish comes out on top.
Show them that cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a lot of fun.
You can also show them how far they’ve come by teaching them how to make a DIY cookbook that includes all of the dishes that they’ve mastered. It’s not only a helpful tool but a great reminder of your time together.
Hopefully, you’ve seen how simple it can be to teach your tween how to cook and why it’s such an important skill for them to learn.