Pancakes: Perfect for Teaching Kids to Cook

by Alissa Marquess on November 18, 2011

A pancake chant?

Pancakes have an entire collection of rituals and traditions in our house- they are generally eaten while standing in the kitchen, kids get to be on a stool by the stove while we cook, Mama gets to make the first batch…Oh, and we have a chant.

In my own childhood my brother and I would fight about getting the first batch of pancakes and my mom would say (because of the often crispy edges), “First the worst! Second the best!”  We’d chant this, trying to be patient as we waited for them to come off the griddle.

When my little sister got old enough to join in the pancake chant, she added a third verse, so ever since our pancake chant goes:

Learning to cook- flipping pancakes

Celebrating a successful pancake flip.

First the Worst!
Second the Best!
Third the one with the Treasure Chest!

Strangely no one questioned why the pancakes have a treasure chest…

My own three kids love pancakes too and it has been one of the ways we have learned to be together in the kitchen.
I say “learned to be together” because a lot of teaching kids to cook involves teaching yourself: learning to notice when you need to let go, learning when you need to step in, and when you need to say, “No, I don’t want help cooking right now.”

I find pancakes to be a wonderful way to teach my kids to cook:

  • Pancakes involve *just enough* danger- Kids learn how to be around a hot griddle, but it isn’t flinging grease and you can gauge just how much involvement at the stove is appropriate for your child’s coordination level. (I find the levels from easiest to hardest are: 1. just watch, 2. remove pancakes, 3. flip pancakes and 4.pour batter)
  • Pancakes are cooked in the morning, so I am more able to work with my kids rather than in the evening when I might be burnt out from the day and impatient.
  • Pancakes can be ugly- This is essential for the “letting go” part.  When the kids are learning to flip pancakes there is no guarantee things will go smoothly, but they need lots of chances to mess it up so they can learn. We as parents need to give them the freedom to give it a try.
  • Pancake recipes tend to be forgiving- too much flour? And a bit of water. They won’t hold together? Add another egg or some flax meal. Kids can get into problem solving too.  My six year old will say, “I think they need a titch more sweetness, let’s put in some honey.”
  • We make pancakes often, so my kids get to see the process over and over.  I try to let at least one kid help me in SOME portion of the cooking most times, but some mornings I just need to get breakfast made quick and all they get to do is watch.  At these times I remind them, “We’ll make pancakes again soon and then you can help!”

Teaching kids to cook
Today is Kitchen Activities Day in the 30 day play challenge!  I hope you’re inspired to get in your kitchen soon with a small person you love.  Teaching our kids how to cook can open a door to lifelong health and happiness.  And if we’re lucky, by the time they’re teenagers they’ll be cooking us dinners!

I would love to know- do you have a family favorite food to cook with your kids?  Do you have “pancake rituals?” Leave a comment below!

Camp Mom Summer Activities Pack

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

maryanne @ mama smiles November 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

My husband cooks pancakes on the weekends. The kids have helped with the stirring, but not with the actual cooking. He does cook them into fun shapes, though!

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Alissa November 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

My husband used to love the fun shapes his grandmother would make with pancakes; she was an expert!

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Jamie @ hands on : as we grow November 20, 2011 at 7:17 am

ha! I love the part that its ‘just enough’ danger! Henry just experienced working at the stove for the first time and I could tell he was nervous, but equally (if not moreso) excited!! It was awesome. Pancakes would be a fun ‘challenge’ for him.

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Elizabeth December 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

We do this almost every Saturday morning in our home. I love that my kids want to be in the kitchen. Every night around 5:00 when I go into the kitchen I hear the sound of little chairs scraping against my kitchen floor – if I’m honest I don’t always enjoy that sound. Thanks for reminding me why having them in the kitchen with me is a GOOD thing :)

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FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist February 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm

At our house it’s either pancakes or chocolate pudding, both made from a home-made mix, which simplifies the process enough to accommodate mommy’s patience (ok, lack thereof)! My 3 yo’s favourite part is really dumping and stirring; he loses interest once the pancakes are on the griddle, whew. Pudding getting thick, though, is endlessly fascinating. I have to say trust him around heat way more than around, say, knives…

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Angelica March 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

My kids love baking with me. Our favorites are pancakes (like you), making muffins, and waffles. My older 2 (7 and 5) have also learned to peel potatoes and carrots. They love doing this and it helps them learn to help and also cooking helps my kids try more new things than they would if they didn’t help me.

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Jennifer June 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

I’ve been doing homemade pizza with my 3yo for a few months now. I buy pre-made dough from Whole Foods. While I roll it out, she “helps” by scooping flour into a bowl with a tablespoon (I just put the scooped flour back into the flour container when she’s done). Then, I put the rolled-out dough in front of her. She “paints” it with olive oil. Then I plop on a scoop of pizza sauce and she very carefully spreads it so that the entire surface is covered with sauce (she’s very good at this part!). Then she sprinkles on the cheese (and eats a bit of the cheese too, which is her favorite part!). Then, she places the broccoli florets evenly on top (she loves broccoli!). Meanwhile, I’m tidying the kitchen! It’s awesome! I’m nearby in case she needs help, but I pretty much let her do it herself. I slide the pizza onto a pizza stone in the pre-heated oven, and 10 minutes later dinner is ready!

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Jade June 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

Eggs! My daughter loves to cook eggs, and I feel everything you said about pancakes applies to eggs too :) It’s early, no grease involved, & well, they don’t look a certain way at all! She gets everything she needs out; and then cracks, whisks, pours, & cooks the eggs herself (sometimes she adds cheese) – 4 yrs

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Tatyana April 8, 2014 at 7:03 am

When my baby gets old enough, we’re trying to make pancakes!

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