Cooking is an essential skill that everyone needs to have once they leave home, but it is even better if teenagers can help with cooking at a young age while they are still under the direction of their parents. Although teaching your teen to cook might seem like more of a hassle than just doing it all yourself, it will instill in them healthy habits and important skills!
There are several simple foods that 13-year olds can quickly learn how to make on their own such as eggs, toast, grilled cheese, quesadillas and more. However, aside from those simple meals, encourage your children to assist with meal planning, grocery shopping, and preparing more complicated meals.
A 13-year old should not be expected to be an amazing chef right away, but the practice and skill builds up quickly. Read on for more ideas about how to get your 13-year old involved in the kitchen, and simple meal ideas that they should be able to make!
Benefits of Teaching Your 13-Year Old How to Cook
When your teenager accidentally drops an egg on the floor or spills the olive oil, you might be tempted to just take over, but here are some of the many benefits of getting your teen involved in the kitchen!
- They will develop fine motor skills that will be helpful in their overall growth and development.
- Teens that participate in meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking are more likely to try new foods and expand their palate.
- Relationships between parents and teenagers can be nurtured when spending time together preparing meals.
- Teenagers will be able to eventually take over some of the responsibility of preparing meals for the family (I know that is an exciting benefit for the parents that are sick of cooking all the time!)
- If teenagers have learned cooking skills early on in their life, they are more likely to carry healthy eating habits with them when they leave the house and are on their own, rather than relying on fast food and convenience foods.
- They will be more comfortable and confident in their ability to take care of themselves when they are out of the house. Learning to cook can actually boost their self-esteem!
Ways to get Teens Involved in the Kitchen
You don’t have to turn the entire kitchen over to your 13-year old to get them involved. Here are some suggestions for helping your teenager get more comfortable in the kitchen!
- Let them measure out ingredients while you are cooking. Show them the tools for measuring both wet and dry ingredients and assist them as needed.
- Teach them how to pre-set the oven and let them practice.
- Have your teen follow along with the recipe and instruct you on what to do next. This can be a great teaching opportunity and allow them to ask questions about the process.
- Teach them to cook on the stovetop. Make sure they know how to turn different burners on and off. Teach them to cook things like ground beef!
- Have your teen look at the ingredient list and retrieve all of the foods you will need. This will teach them to read the ingredient list and also will help them become more familiar with where things are in the kitchen and boost their confidence.
- Allow your teen to crack eggs when your recipe calls for it. If they are still learning, they can crack them into a separate bowl to make sure none of the shell gets in the food!
- Teach safe knife cutting skills. If your teen is ready and comfortable, they might be able to do some of the chopping for your recipes- with close assistance and correction. Be aware that it is ok if you don’t feel like your teen is ready to use sharp knives yet- every child is different!
- Teens should be actively involved in cleaning up a meal. Teach them which utensils can go in the dishwasher and what must be hand washed. Show them safe washing techniques to avoid injuries.
- Allow your teen to come up with meal ideas. Let them look in recipe books and find healthy meals that look good to them! Your teen will be much more likely to try something that they picked out and helped make.
- Have your teen help you make a grocery list. Show them how and where to check for ingredients that are already at home.
- Plan on having treats too! This can help your teen develop baking skills. Many box recipes have simple instructions to follow and can be good practice for teens.
- Take your 13-year old to the grocery store! Shopping for food might feel overwhelming if you haven’t done it very much. Let them take the time to actually search for different foods- they will be more likely to remember things if they have had to put effort into the search.
- Remind teens to check the use-by dates on foods before they put them in the cart. Explain why it is important to pick the latest date available.
- Show teens how to read nutrition labels and choose healthy options at the store. Maybe this means choosing a lower-sodium option or one with less saturated fat!
- Have teens participate in the purchasing and bagging process. This will build their confidence with making money transactions and help them see the entire process of meal planning.
- Let your teenager unload the car and put food away where it belongs.
What Should a 13-Year Old Be Able to Help With in the Kitchen?
Every 13-year old is a little bit different, and their capabilities in the kitchen might also be different. The earlier and more often a child is helping in the kitchen, the more comfortable they will feel with learning more advanced cooking skills.
There is not a standard cooking skill level that all 13-year old’s should be at. As long as they are participating regularly in helping at all levels in the meal planning, shopping, and preparing process, they will develop at their own pace.
Easy Meals and Snacks for a 13-Year Old to Prepare on their Own
Your teen doesn’t need iron chef skills for a lot of meals and snacks. Here are a few simple meals and snacks with little preparation or that are simple enough for most 13-year olds to do.
- Scrambled eggs, toast, and eggs
- Fried egg sandwich with a fruit smoothie
- Quesadilla with cheese, and chicken, eaten with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole (Keep frozen, fully cooked chicken available for teens to have as a quick protein to add to meals like this)
- Individual pizzas on naan bread, with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, olives, tomatoes, and any other toppings they would like. Add spices and cook in the oven or in a toaster oven for a quick and tasty meal.
- Pancakes (Many pancake recipes just tell you to add water!)
- Spaghetti or other pasta (Once your teen feels comfortable using the stove top, they can quickly cook noodles and combine some meat with tomato sauce.
- Frozen veggies are super easy for teenagers to learn to make. Teach them the importance of having fruits and vegetables with meals!
- Mac and cheese with canned tuna and frozen broccoli! (Another simple, balanced meal that is super quick to make!)
- Oatmeal. (Instant oatmeal can be cooked in the microwave and then teens can add whatever toppings they want!)
- Sandwiches (Teenagers should be able to make a simple sandwich like peanut butter and jelly. Give them other easy sandwich ideas like grilled cheese, or ham and cheese and let them use different types of breads and sauces to keep things interesting).
- Wraps with chicken, hummus, tomato, onion, lettuce and cheese.
- Frozen fish (Show them how to bake it in the oven and pair it with a starch and vegetable for a simple dinner).
- Tacos (If they are able to cook the ground meat, let them! Then they can get out all other toppings they want to include. They can get help with chopping up foods like tomatoes and onions if needed).
- Rice (If your teen can cook rice, there are so many things that can go on top! Or they can even learn to make a yummy fried rice with lots of healthy things added in)
Take time to plan, shop for, and prepare meals with your teenager. It will be a great opportunity to bond with your teen, as well as teach basic life skills that will serve them well in the future!
Kirk V. How to teach your teen to cook real meals. Ptaourchildren.org. Published May 27, 2020.
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