I did not have to ask my daughter if she wanted to learn to cook or help me in the kitchen. It's been a natural progression for her over her whole life. Since I started cooking at a young age, I didn't have the usual fears of her being in the kitchen with me. Of course, I don't let her wield a sharp knife or cook on the stove unattended but I do follow the philosophy I learned from Maria Montessori and that is to "never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed."
While not all kids take an immediate interest in the kitchen, there are tasks that even the youngest chefs can do to help. Of course, skills will vary so remember to always use your best judgement and assign tasks suitable to your tot. My daughter had an interest at a very young age and so we gave her some activities to do like washing fruits and vegetables, washing plastic bowls and cups in the sink, stirring ingredients, helping to mash potatoes with a potato masher (making sure the temperature was not too hot for her). She also always liked cracking eggs into a small bowl and helping to sprinkle flour or powdered sugar onto my work surface, and putting sprinkles onto cakes and cupcakes for decoration.
Now that she's a little older, she is able to follow instructions more easily and has a little more dexterity with her hands so she is able to help with many more things like measuring solids like sugar and flour and pouring pre-measured liquids into a bowl following the recipe. With a plastic knife, she helps cut items like mushrooms, berries and bananas, she helps me mix ingredients with a spoon or whisk, and loves to make scrambled eggs though she very rarely eats them. So I knew that making pudding cups would be right up her alley since she just loves helping. Since these utilized an instant pudding mix, she had an instant gratification of getting them made and into the fridge to chill.
I've found that cooking with kids also helps me teach reading and math skills. While we are working, I have her count the ingredients we are using (ie. eggs or in this case cookies), we talk about phonics and sounds and what letter an ingredient might start with. It's a total learning session that's absolutely fun. For me, it's a learning, bonding and overall heartwarming experience to be in the kitchen with my daughter. I'm super excited to see what she wants to make next week.
- 44 Nilla wafers; divided
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
- 1 box instant vanilla pudding
- 2 bananas, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups milk, cold
- 4 pint (mason) jars
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
- In a food processor, pulse 20 of the cookies (reserving 4 for garnish) into a fin crumb.
- Pour the butter and mix until it just forms.
- Spread onto a baking sheet into a thin layer and bake until golden about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sized glass bowl, pour in the instant pudding mix and then top with milk. Whisk this together until is starts to thicken, about one minute.
- Into the bottom of a ramekin or pint glass (mason) jar, place two tablespoons of cookie crumble into the bottom of each jar
- Top the crumble with 1/4 cup of pudding mix then layer with sliced bananas.
- Top each jar with another 1/4 cup layer of pudding.
- Garnish with a cookie and a slice of banana.
Yields: 4 - 1/2 cup servings
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