Cooking school: how to prep your teen for independence this summer


Want to encourage kitchen independence in your tween or teen, but not sure where to start? We're sharing our favourite tips for teaching older kids to cook for themselves...and for your family!

Did you cook for your family when you were a teenager? There are lots of benefits to making the time to teach your tween or teen to cook this summer— in addition to improving everyone’s mental health and well-being, it’s a smart way to prepare your kid for independent living...and a great excuse to spend some relaxed time with them as the school year winds down. Plus, summer cooking lessons will pay off when the school year kicks in again—not only will your kid be able to help out more with family dinners, they’ll even be set to cook for themselves at college. Here are some of our favourite tips and tricks for getting your teen into the kitchen with you.

Depending on your own feelings about cooking (and your kid), you might prefer a highly structured lesson-like approach to sharing some of your skills—or you might find a relaxed approach is more your style. Try starting with setting some goals together for your summer cooking and aim for a combination of practical skills and fun achievements by summer’s end. “Practical skills” might look like your teen levelling up to being on-call for one meal a week, or handling some of the family grocery shopping. And the fun part? That’s up to you! Try camping together, or making time for a more ambitious cooking project, like trying the recipes Phyllis Grant includes in this soaring letter to her daughter about growing up, love and cooking (Spoiler alert: get your kleenex ready.)

To get inspired for the how-to’s of teaching your teen, check out this helpful read by blogger Karen Humphrey on how she taught her kids by delegating parts of their dinner menu; meeting them where they were at in terms of knife skills (ahem, here's our tutorial if the phrase "knife skills" makes you nervous); and gradually adding new things to her teenagers' skill-set like cooking rice or meat. For a more detailed list of low-key ways to get your teen cooking, check out these tips from Eat Right, and this list of kitchen skills from blogger Sandy Smith. And if you’re taking the lesson-by-lesson approach? We recommend this set of lessons from foodie blog The Kitchn, along with this parent’s description of the “Mom 101” class she designed for her college-bound kids.

Time to check out some recipes! Our recipe archive is a smart place to start for recipes that call for a range of skills (and that will get you cooking together) Other good resources for getting your teens cooking: this 10 recipe round-up, and these 5 delicious dinner ideas for teens. If your teen is on meal-planning duty, arm them with Budget Bytes and Dinner: A Love Story, two blogs that break down cooking skills, meal planning and budgeting in an approachable (and delicious!) way.

Got younger kids you’d like to teach to cook? Check out these reads on teaching younger children knife skills, encouraging independence in the kitchen through practical play, and kitchen activities to try together. We’d love to hear from you about how you’re teaching your kids in the kitchen (and what recipes you love!) - so join the conversation on our Facebook and Instagram feeds!

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  • This is a great blog but I think you have the wrong link to Karen Humphrey's is linking to dash and bella?

    Cheryl Davie 7 June 2017, at 8:38 am

  • Hi Cheryl! Thank you for your comment. I checked out the link and it seems fine. Can you try again and let me know if you are still having problems? Thanks!!

    Joel Barohn RD 15 June 2017, at 3:52 pm