This post is sponsored by Nestle Healthy Active Kids.
Recently I found out that almost half of Australian children are not learning any cooking skills. I thought about my own childhood and realised I had learnt to cook from a young age. I was given a children’s cookbook at the age of seven and I tried to make my way through it.
I didn’t ever cook anything tricky, trendy or challenging; but rather attempted basic things that didn’t put my life in danger and weren’t costly or time-consuming. We had a ginger beer bug so I learned how to brew ginger beer, I made jam pastries with my mother’s left-over pastry, I made homemade lemonade with lemons from our tree, packet cakes were a favourite to make on the weekends, and I also made pikelets, coconut ice, scones, hokey pokey, toffees, fudge and a dessert called flummery.
I grew up thinking it was quite normal to spend part of your weekend cooking up something in the kitchen but maybe that was because the weather in Wellington was so awful you had to find something to do indoors, (and we didn’t have the internet as a time soaker-up-erer).
So I was quite surprised to hear that moving forward a generation, 50% of Australian children don’t have any basic cooking skills. Like learning a language or a musical instrument, the earlier you start, the easier it is to develop new skills. So why not get started when you have youth on your side.
In 2001, Nestle Australia, in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport, developed an interactive teaching resource for parents and teachers to educate children and students to lead healthy active lives. Part of that program is aimed at getting children involved in the kitchen. What the program discovered is that 27% of primary school aged children never help with the cooking at home. 44% Of parents say they’re too time poor to let their children help in the kitchen. 43% Of parents say their child knows less about cooking than they did at the same age. Not good!
I am in no doubt that Archie and Arabella spent less time cooking in the kitchen than I did as a child. And that certainly wasn’t my plan. Archie went to boarding school so it wasn’t easy to involve him with any cooking duties. I thought Arabella would show great interest so every Christmas I’d buy her a children’s cookbook and the growing collection sat on a shelf gathering dust. Arabella showed zero interest in having anything to do with cooking except for the odd occasion when she’d be overly ambitious and suddenly announce she was going to make a sculptured cake for a friend’s birthday.
But if at first you don’t succeed, have a third child! My little guy enjoys spending time in the kitchen and learning how to cook. Now…he doesn’t do anything ambitious like cooking up a Beef Wellington and he doesn’t do anything dangerous like lean over a deep-fryer. He also doesn’t do anything that requires hours of involvement as we’re dealing with a limited attention span. But if we do something that is fairly basic and quick and easy, he’s all enthusiasm.
He likes to wear an apron and look like a professional, and he likes to be very hands-on. And he likes to bash things. Lately I’ve been marinating a lot of meats and vegetables with Thai pastes and Alfie is my basher. I give him the mortar and pestle and he gives the ingredients a really good whack and in no time I have a perfect paste. He also likes to separate eggs, juice lemons, and give things a good stir.
Tonight we are having dinner with my sister and Alfie’s three cousins. I said we’d bring something to have after the main course. I thought how lovely it would be if Alfie walked in holding something he’d made. At the moment my pantry is bursting at the seams and so I also knew I wanted to make something that would use up some of what was sitting on those shelves. I have an over-supply of chocolate left over from the catering I did for Arabella’s 21st and lots of nuts in ziplock bags in the freezer, and shredded coconut in the pantry.
With those ingredients on-hand, I decided Alfie could make rocky road. All I had to do was go and buy some Turkish delight and a packet of marshmallows. When I came back Alfie was ready with his apron and while he prepared the ingredients, I lined the tins. He loved cutting the Turkish delight and the marshmallows in halves and said, ‘This is fun; when can we make this again?’ I told him this is a great Christmas gift especially if you make it with white chocolate so we’ll make the Christmas version soon.
I’m trying to involve Alfie in the kitchen in a fun way, rather than making it seem like a chore. Being a no-back recipe that has just six ingredients and can be made in less than 15 minutes, this is a very child-friendly recipe and, given the sweet ingredients, something most children would love to make.
Now…for a post about healthy active kids, this isn’t the most healthy recipe however, it’s not a meal replacement and it is something that will tempt children into the kitchen and get them excited about what they can create. And if you can create enthusiasm with a recipe that can be put together in around 15 minutes, in no time at all kids will be ready to tackle something more challenging.
For some parents, letting your children loose in the kitchen brings on feelings of anxiety as you anticipate the mess that’s going to be made, the amount of time it’s going to take them to make the dish, and the cleaning up that won’t be done. I’m one of those people! But…having older children who now just breeze in to drop off dirty washing and then eat their way through the fridge before once again disappearing, I know how quickly the time where they are in your home and happy to be in your home, goes by. When Alfie wants to help me in the kitchen I tell myself to overlook the negatives and just enjoy the fact he enjoys being with me.
- 400g Turkish Delight, halved
- 280g packet marshmallows, halved
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup blanched almonds, toasted
- ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted
- 450g dark chocolate, chopped (white or milk chocolate can be substituted)
- Line 2 x 8cm x 26cm bar cake pans with baking paper extending the paper 5cm above the long sides to make it easy to remove the rocky road from the tins.
- In a large bowl, combine Turkish delight, marshmallows, coconut and nuts.
- Melt chocolate and when smooth, pour over mixture. Stir quickly and combine ingredients well. Push mixture down firmly.
- Place in fridge to set then remove from tin and cut as desired.
Nestle Healthy Active Kids is giving away two sets of kids plates and aprons. All you have to do to enter is tell me in the comments what recipe your child enjoys cooking. The competition is open to Australian readers only and the winner will be announced on Saturday, November 21 via Facebook.
So…Do you allow your child to cook in the kitchen and if so, what do they like to cook?