I recently started a cookery blog, the reasons for which are explained on the blog itself, should you be interested. Obviously cooking is about cooking and learning is about learning. So it's easy to keep the two blogs separate. Unlike with my two Twitter accounts (one professional, one personal), I am unlikely to find myself double posting something in both places.
However, a friend of mine recently asked me to post recipes that would be possible for her to make with her children. This prompted a post on my cookery blog - the first non-recipe post - that would almost do just as well on this one. In fact, I have almost certainly mentioned some of its content here before.
The core of the matter is that, when my children were little, they used to act up in the supermarket during the weekly shop. Yup. Just like anyone else's. And I hit on this idea to keep them from getting bored. Each week, each child was given a £5 budget to buy the ingredients for a meal for the family. They then had to make this meal one evening. They were allowed to ask for as much assistance and advice as they liked, and I handled anything hot or sharp, under their direction.
When talking to parents about cooking with kids, I always remind them of two things:
- There will be mess. Lots of mess. Accept that and deal with it...afterwards
- They won't do things as quickly or as well as you could. Get over it. Don't be tempted to take over from them. They will learn far more from doing it imperfectly themselves than from watching you do it brilliantly.
But I'd suggest that's a short-sighted goal.
Next time, you want the learner to be able to do more on his/her own, surely? You want to be able to step gradually backwards until the point comes when you can quietly step out of the picture altogether on that particular recipe/task and know that it will be done as it should, with the added personal flair of the individual who now owns the task.
And let's notice, too, that I didn't take my kids to a different room two days before and talk them through how the dish was going to be prepared. I didn't even demonstrate it for them. We did it together. In real time. And some of the results were disastrous. But that's okay... because we all learnt as much from them as we did from the successful meals. Maybe more. Probably more.
Some of the disasters cost us money. That is inevitable. But the £5 budget wasn't for the meal. It was for engaging my kids. It was for providing them with the opportunity to achieve something. To do something that was a real contribution to the day to day business of the family. And it was cheap at the price.
The sense of accomplishment each child had as the family sat down to a meal he had prepared, was priceless. And, of course, they had to explain to Dad exactly how it had been done, because, of course, he was desperate to know. And, of course, Mom's contribution was talked down and their own was talked up. Which is as it should be.
Learning isn't something that happens in a classroom. It is something that - like life - happens while we're making other plans. All. The. Time.
But we have to prepared for the mess. We have to be prepared for imperfection the first few times.
We have to get over ourselves.
We also have to realise that it isn't enough to just speak a thing and expect it to have results. On which note, I'd like to steer you towards this post by the Goldsmiths.