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by Your Child Nutrition Expert Jill Castle

Why I’m OK With a Messy Kitchen

July 24, 2012 | In: Child Development, Child Nutrition, Healthy Meals

I have had minutes this summer with a clean kitchen.

Yes, minutes.

Why?

My two teen girls (who are 15 and 14) are ‘into’ food and cooking.

So I’ve handed over the kitchen.

The results?

Lemon Raspberry Muffins, Fresh Tomato Mozzarella Pasta, Cake Pops, sliced chicken sandwiches with the works, and the list goes on.

While there have been recipes from the internet and out of cookbooks, there has also been free-range creativity—putting together what sounds good and seeing if it works.

So if you have a teen, with time on his or her hands, keep the option of a messy kitchen open! I have to admit, there haven’t been many failures.

How to create a successful cooking experience for teens:

Take advantage of interest.

Forcing, pushing or heavy encouragement to cook almost never yields the results you’re looking for. When the interest is there—grab it and go for it.

My teens started out with, “Can I make chocolate chip cookies?” In fact, I’ve heard a lot of requests to make cookies! An interest in baking is a common first sign that a teen is ready to start cooking.

Provide support, but don’t stifle.

Teens need permission to make mistakes, to start over, and learn along the way. If you’re hovering or overly worried about a misstep, remind yourself that cooking is a learning process, much like learning to drive a car. Provide upfront guidance, like answering questions about a recipe, demonstrating a cooking technique, or purchasing the necessary ingredients, but don’t take over.

Insert your advice when asked.

Lighten up on the rules.

Cooking is an art, and rules aren’t crucial for the learning cook. For example, when G makes chocolate chip cookies, she doesn’t follow the early instructions. She does her own thing with the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg—and the cookies turn out great every time!

Mesh with teen development.

It is a natural part of teen development to experiment and express oneself. Cooking, baking and creating in the kitchen dovetails nicely with this process. And what happens in the kitchen can carry over into the future, culminating in a confident and creative cook!

For more insight and ideas in the kitchen, check out The Dinner Bar ideas and other simple recipes on this blog.

What has your teen made in the kitchen (besides a mess!) this summer?


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10 Responses to Why I’m OK With a Messy Kitchen

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Marion Taylor

July 24th, 2012 at 11:26 am

What a wonderful post Jill! Allowing kids & teens to be involved in the kitchen (or take things into their own hands!) has so many benefits. Thanks for sharing!

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Jill

July 25th, 2012 at 7:35 am

You’re welcome, Marion. Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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Linda Alberts

July 25th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

This is a great post! I remember my teen years in the kitchen with my mom’s red Betty Crocker cookbook…Internet recipe weren’t as readily accessible back then. With my son, who is just under a year, I sit him in his highchair as I cook and explain the kinds of foods I’m cooking, how I’m preparing them and give him little snacks to keep his attention. It’s a start!!

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Jill

July 25th, 2012 at 7:42 pm

It sure is–that’s great Linda! Thanks for sharing–I hope more moms will get their kids in the kitchen–it’s a great vehicle to build awareness about food and nutrition, in a natural way.

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Jessica Levinson

July 26th, 2012 at 3:07 am

That is so great that your kids love cooking! I hope my twin girls will love getting busy in the kitchen as much as I do! Any tips for encouraging them from a young age?

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Jill

July 29th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Yes, Jessica, just bring them in as early as possible. Even getting them in the sink-tub for post meal bathing is a lot of fun and can start the process. In the early toddler years, they can sit on or around the counter and help stir, pour, etc. You’ll know when it’s safe to let them do things. I had my kids in the tub with tupperware, which turned into the kitchen sink with plastic spoons/measuring cups, then pouring real food items (milk, flour, salt), stirring—thankfully, it naturally evolves! Just get them in there and they’ll let you know what they want to do! Have a blast!!!

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Maureen Bligh, MA, RD

July 30th, 2012 at 11:45 am

I am a registered dietitian today because of my mom. Her commitment to family meals and willingness to teach me to cook. My boys unfortunately did not have the interest or time since they were heavily into sports, so I unfortunately did not have this experience much myself. That said, when I get a call from my college age son in the evenings, you can bet it is a cooking or food spoilage question!

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Kate Scarlata, RD

July 30th, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Love this post Jill and I could not agree more! I love when my kids experiment in the kitchen! My kitchen always seems to be upside down but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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  YOYO Meals: A Step Toward Building Healthy Eaters by Just the Right Byte

August 8th, 2012 at 11:32 am

[...] Uncomplicated Meals: Kids tend to make simple items or they may heat up leftovers. Overall, meals can be uncomplicated, but they may be messy. If mess bothers you, read my post about Why I’m OK with a Messy Kitchen. [...]

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  My Little Man Chef by Just the Right Byte

November 28th, 2012 at 7:59 pm

[...] Yes, it’s taken a long time—almost ten years. But, I’d say, he’s ahead of the game, and the benefits are mounting. If you wonder what cooking does for kids, read this. [...]

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