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Give teens more independence in the kitchen, and encourage a love for cooking with 5 important life skills. They may surprise you with what they can do!
This blog post is sponsored by Amazon.
If you follow my son on Instagram (or have seen any of my conversations about what he's up to), you likely already know he's a born foodie; he loves finding alternative and healthier ways to make the foods he loves the most.
The main topic of this post is one I feel pretty strongly about, so when given the opportunity to write about the new way for teens to shop online with Amazon, I knew this was where I wanted my focus to be… How to give teens more independence and allow them to grow and experiment and learn in the kitchen.
While it wasn't easy in the beginning when he was little, I have to say the rewards of letting him in have been exponential. So much so, that his love for food has now expanded into not just making food but growing food, as well.
I don't know what he'll end up doing with his life, though I could definitely see him chasing the dream of a culinary or even agricultural pursuit. Then again, everything he enjoys about food and gardening may turn out to be an amazing hobby he carries with him the rest of his life, and that's perfectly ok. Only time will tell.
5 ways to give teens more independence and encourage a love for cooking
1. Start them early by letting them help.
When they're younger and they actually want to help, let go of all your inhibitions, and let them help with making dinner. Assign them kitchen chores, things like cleanup duty, dish washing, clearing the table, and cooking a meal (or learning how to cook a meal in the beginning).
Case in point, I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen and sometimes my grandmothers. Eventually, my mom let me fly by allowing me to pursue my interest in baking. She let me make things by myself and dirty up her kitchen (as long as I cleaned up my mess). Now as I look back, I have so many fond memories of baking in that old farmhouse kitchen.
As kids help, it gives them opportunity to observe and you opportunity to teach. As they grow older, they'll naturally become more independent, and they'll have so many memories from these times. It may require patience on your part in the beginning, but again, the rewards are exponential and so worth it.
2. Teach your teen how to shop.
Teens will need to learn how to meal plan and grocery shop, in part to help them learn how to save money. They'll also occasionally need to order things they need for certain recipes or projects.
Enter Amazon and the amazingness that is being able to give your teen their own login for your Amazon account. My wish has finally come true!
How it works… Parents can now add up to 4 teens, ages 13 to 17, to their account for free by visiting amazon.com/forteens. If you have Prime, you can even give them access to select Prime benefits, like Free Two-Day Shipping, Prime Video, and Twitch Prime. This means Jacob can create his own login once I've set it up to add him to our account, then shop independently for certain items he needs; and I can either set a spending limit or approve his purchases before they go through (I chose to approve, by the way).
I choose the payment method he's able to use. All notifications come straight to my text messages (or email). He has the ability to add a personalized note, letting me know why he wants the item. When I receive the text, it includes the item, cost, shipping address, and payment information.
We decided to try this service out, and I gave Jacob $100 to spend on anything he wanted. I had a feeling he'd be ordering either kitchen or garden items because he'd been telling me some things he wanted for a while. Sure enough, he spent $88.29, ordering Pizzeria Flour, an Artisan Dough Tray, a Wooden Pizza Peel, and a cookbook by one of his favorite chefs, Richard Bertinet.
It's a win-win because he can research, read reviews, and set up an order on his own. Then all I have to do is approve. It gives him freedom and independence to learn how to make good choices. It gives me the ability to guide if needed. Love!!!
3. Teach them basic cooking skills; then allow them to fly.
Of course, there are skills that need supervision at first, things like chopping, cooking on the stovetop, cleanliness while cooking, even things like pressure cooking. Teach them how to safely and properly use kitchen tools, gadgets, and appliances. Teach them about food safety too. Then step back and let them wobble onto their feet with whatever skill it is you're teaching.
They may wobble until they get their bearings. But the more practice they get, the better they'll get at whatever it is they're trying to do. They may even develop their own ways of doing things that work better for them. It's about teaching them, then giving them room to explore options and develop their own tactics and techniques.
4. Allow them to go down a rabbit hole.
After all, this is the best time in life for them to fall down a rabbit hole. Let them explore their interests. For Jacob, that was shying away from regular yeast and learning how to make a natural sourdough yeast. In turn, he now makes his own sourdough Artisan Bread. He also makes his own pizza dough.
It's not something I would've necessarily pursued, but it interested him and down the rabbit hole he went. His next pursuit is building his own natural earth oven. This kid, y'all… When he dreams, he dreams big and he goes after it. I mean, why not?
5. Give them opportunities to learn more.
Maybe it's taking a cooking class, or as simple as letting them buy a book or watch a movie (hello, Amazon). Even the library is a great resource.
Jacob's gone as far as to observe the pizza making process at a restaurant while we were on vacation; the chef was so sweet to let him in to watch the process of making wood fired pizza.
Maybe there's opportunity for an apprenticeship with a local artisan or chef. Teens have this incredible way of soaking up any knowledge they can about subjects that interest them; if that subject happens to be cooking, help them find ways to do just that.
One thing I know for sure…
The time we give our kids to pursue their interests builds lifelong skills that will stay with them throughout their lives. They'll never forget the times we spend with them either. Some of my own fondest memories are from times in the kitchen with both my mom and my grandma.
What tips would you give for giving teens more independence in the kitchen? I love chatting with y'all. Let's chat in the comments!