I found out my son was allergic to gluten when he was 5 1/2 months old. I was nursing him and he was so sensitive to it that consuming breast milk from my diet full of gluten made him itchy with eczema all over. As soon as I removed gluten from MY DIET, he cleared up. I made a decision that I would teach my son how to cook and he would love it! I decided he would go off to college knowing how to survive by cooking the foods that make him healthy. The photo above is my son in the Ergo Baby Carrier (that carrier was a life saver!) while I am searing Red Thai Snapper with broccoli and onions. This is still one of his favorite meals.
I also bought several kitchen tools like the pitcher in the photo above from an online Montessori store, this plastic pitcher from Amazon would work too. I set up drawers at the bottom of the kitchen for all my kids cups, plates, utensils, pitchers, mini mashers and whisks. I made the kitchen a fun place to be and let them get their hands dirty and involved them in each task that was safe and age appropriate. In the photo above my son added the greens in the blender and poured water into the blender with his mini pitcher to make a smoothie.
He pushed the buttons on the blender to blend and then added the bananas for the green smoothie. Getting kids involved in the process of cooking actually gets them more inclined to eating the food. I also ask him if it tastes good and if it does not, what else would he like to add. Kids have great ideas!!!
In the photo above, both my kids are standing on The Learning Tower. This is the safest stool I found for kids. My son is making orange juice for a smoothie. This is still one of his favorite jobs in the kitchen. He loves the appliances that make noise!!! It is an insult if I make orange juice without asking him for help. My daughter also loves being in the kitchen. After several tests, we discovered she has problems with gluten too. She is in the kitchen a lot!
Nowadays, my daughter likes cutting potatoes to make Crispy Baked French Fries. Every morning she cuts herself some apple slices and has that with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter. She makes lots of yummy fruit salads for herself and asks me to take a picture!
My son loves to bake. He helped me make these Pumpkin Pie-lets and completely took over the recipe! These were SO good and healthy! Now that he has several years of experience in the kitchen, he can tell me if a recipe needs more salt, cinnamon, or sweetener. He has great sensibility in the kitchen.
So how do you get teach your gluten free kids to cook?
Step 1: Set them up with a space of their own. Maybe a shelf or a few drawers with their own utensils, cups, mixing bowls, etc. This will give them a sense of pride and ownership of the kitchen.
Step 2: Give them a task that is age appropriate. Young toddlers can stir or whisk. Many times I double a recipe to teach them new skills. I make one recipe and they watch and follow along with their own bowl. For example, I measure a cup of flour, and then they measure a cup of flour, etc. Also, making a double batch of a recipe allows you to freeze food for later, very smart thinking! Place your flour in large plastic tubs so that it is easy to scoop out and measure.
Step 3: As they get older, give them instructions and observe. Be patient! Yes, it will take longer to make a meal but trust me, this will pay off! They will not only be self sufficient adults, but one day they will surprise you with something really special. My daughter does this all the time and it melts my heart!
Step4: Acknowledge them always for all their efforts and ask for their opinion. Ask how does it taste? Do you like it? What should we add? If things fall and break, I say no problem, I break things sometimes too. If an egg cracks, it’s okay, ask them what should we do? Teach them to help clean up spills. There will be messes. Don’t throw in the towel! As they get older, they will be more careful. Kids want to please their parents and if you yell and scream, the kitchen will not be a fun safe learning environment. Breathe deeply when accidents happen.
Step5: Be consistent! Whether your kids are helping daily in the kitchen or once a week, keep it regular so they can grow and develop in their skills. If it is not a good time to have kids in the kitchen during the week, select a day when you are more relaxed and invite the kids to help. It can be Mommy Daughter/Son cooking day. It is a very special time.
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