The Fun of Cooking With Kids

By Suzanne Wilson
Illustrations by Bill Basso

In the kitchen, Cub Scouts gain confidence they can take to the campsite.

Adults can pass on their own special recipe tips to the next generation; safety measures include having plenty of hot pads available.
The many skills involved in cooking include reading, measuring and math, and organization.

If you'd like to start cooking with Cub Scouts or with your own children, you're in for a treat, possibly a mess, but surely a worthwhile time.

That's because you do kids a great favor when you help them learn to prepare food. It's a life skill everyone needs.

Let's say you're about to make cookies with Bear Cub Scouts. (Bear Achievement 9, What's Cooking?, Requirement a. With an adult, bake cookies.) If all goes well, no one needs to bring a snack to this meeting.

Well in advance of your cooking session, read the recipe all the way through and do any necessary shopping. Before the boys arrive, assemble the ingredients and get out every piece of equipment you'll need. Also, make sure your other adult leader is thoroughly briefed on the procedure in order to adequately help supervise.

YOU: O.K., we're going to make oatmeal cookies!
YOU: All right, we can make another kind.
YOUR SON: Wait a minute. You are going to teach us to cook? Have you forgotten about those Cinnamon Tacos you made for us at home?
YOU: Well, anyone could make that mistake, with the chili powder and cinnamon tins being the same color. But we learned something from that experience, didn't we?
YOUR SON: That would the labels?
YOU: Absolutely!

Even if you've been in charge of some disastrous dinners at your house, you can cook with kids. Be prepared for any occurrence, and you'll be happy if there are relatively few detours in the plan.

Clever you, having already divided up the operation so each boy will have plenty to do. Wash hands, everybody, and roll up your sleeves.

More than cooking

When you mix kids and cooking, you create a subtle learning process that will carry over into other parts of their lives.

Reading: Kids take turns reading the recipe out loud.

Organization: They locate each ingredient and check for bowls, measuring spoons and cups, stirring spoons, and all other necessities.

Math: Measuring ingredients helps them understand fractions.

Science: Depending on the recipe, you may see fascinating interactions in a bowl or pan. (Some say cooking is really chemistry.)

Have at least one other adult helping, so different preparation tasks can have individual guidance.

Family: When cooking with a group or with your own child, you can pass down advice you gained from Mom, Dad, or Grandmother.

We expect Cub Scouts to become Webelos Scouts and Boy Scouts, taking part in meal preparations in camp. If they already know their way around a kitchen, they'll have enough basics to give them confidence when it's time to learn outdoor cookery.

What they did indoors, from measuring carefully to eating with great satisfaction, should make them all the more interested in baking a cobbler in camp.

YOU: When pouring salt into a measuring spoon, don't hold it over the mixing bowl. You might have an avalanche that ends up in the mix! (My mom taught me that.)
CUB SCOUT: Why are we making cookies? Why can't we make a cake like the one you brought to the blue and gold banquet?
YOU: What cake?
YOUR SON: Oh, they mean "Crater Cake." Remember when that bag of microwave popcorn fell off the shelf right into the middle of your chocolate cake? And we had to leave right away for the banquet, so we filled up the hole with lots of frosting.
THE REST: Yeah! Let's make that!
YOU: Who wants to try cracking an egg for these cookies?

Tip: Have extra eggs on hand. Slipping an egg out of its shell is an acquired art. With beginners, the egg's insides may land in unexpected places.

When messes happen, take them in stride and don't voice blame. (Cooking would be a pretty humdrum enterprise if everything always went perfectly.)

As you pass the towels or brush flour out of someone's hair, you may question whether this was such a good idea. But remember, because of differing home situations, this may be the only cooking lesson some of these boys will get.

Cooking not only teaches kids, it teaches you something about who they are and about working with them. And it teaches you something about yourself. (You'll find out.)

It's a great way to come together, creating good food and then eating. Always make it fun.

So the session goes, down to taking turns at spooning dollops of dough onto the cookie sheets.

Whoa! Before the kids escape out the door for a play break, there's the clean-up. No skipping this, and some kids actually like the sudsy part of washing dishes.

The cookies come out of the oven. A success, a failure? Who cares? Even a falling-apart cookie tastes good, especially with cold milk.

Let's sit at the table and pass the cookies. Our compliments to the chefs. And now, everyone take some cookies home.

Contributing editor Suzanne Wilson confesses to actually having made Cinnamon Tacos and Crater Cake.

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Copyright © 2003 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.