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!

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