My Little Sous
Why we should give kids more credit (and freedom) in the kitchen.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Like many, I had my daughter Bryce while also working at a pretty intense, full-time job (I was a magazine publisher at the time). For so many working parents, success means maximizing the time we have and cramming in as much productivity as possible. In our house, that was mealtime. Coming home from work knowing that our kid was going to sleep in 2.5 hours meant that cooking dinner was our biggest opportunity for connection … not just the eating, but the making. Suddenly, the kitchen took on a much deeper meaning.
Before she could walk, I would sit her in her high chair and cook dinner while she watched (and cheered, or jeered, me on). When she was old enough to hold a rubber spatula, I put one in her hand. Soon after, she had her own play kitchen next to our refrigerator, then graduated to an “apprenticeship” using real ingredients—she loved to stir and mix anything I gave her. As she got older, she wanted to contribute more and more to the process, and cooking together became our thing.
If we had a one-room kitchen dwelling to live in for the rest of her childhood, we could raise a good, compassionate human just through the act of cooking together.
We’ve certainly experienced fails. At the age of 3, she reached up and touched the burner on our ceramic stovetop (it was off but still hot). Luckily for her and her parents, children heal at reptilian speed. She wasn’t physically scarred, but it was hard to get back on the horse after that trip to the emergency room. It was a make-or-break moment, and I knew I had to let go of the guilt and teach her to get up and keep going. We prevailed.
A few years later, her second-grade teacher told me that she was falling behind in reading (I panicked). Her class had transitioned from picture books to chapter books and she wasn’t keen on giving up all the pictures (who could blame her?). To remedy this, I invited her to write a cookbook with me. Her eyes lit up, and off we went.
I bought a bunch of kid-oriented cookbooks for inspiration, but her interest in them was noticeably fleeting. They were too cutesy, and after all, she was used to cooking “grown-up” food. Then my copy of Mindy Segal’s (adult) cookbook Cookie Love arrived, and Bryce became acutely focused on it. She took it to bed with her and marked all the recipes she wanted to make, walking me through all of her favorite pages each night for weeks. She did the same with other adult cookbooks, which helped her transition to chapter books at school and at home. By offering her a challenge and letting her follow her curiosity, Bryce felt empowered and charted her own path to aptitude.
In that moment, I realized most of the cooking content available for kids is drastically underserving them in a number of ways. First, today’s kids have high expectations and know way more than we give them credit for, especially when it comes to food. Second, they’re not genetically predisposed to like only chicken fingers and grilled cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with these delicious things). The “kid food” we typically present to them is really limiting their palates, their world views and, increasingly, their health. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 17% percent of children under 19 are obese. That’s a whopping 12.7 million kids.)
Lastly, the one piece of dialogue that I felt was completely missing in the conversation relates to the social and emotional benefits of cooking with kids. I’ve often said, if we had a one-room kitchen dwelling to live in for the rest of her childhood, we could raise a good, compassionate human just through the act of cooking together. In our relatively short journey, she has tapped into her creativity and her independence. She understands her own tastes and limits. Through cooking, she nurtures those she cooks for and her own body and mind. She’s empowered.
There are many parents like me out there, working hard to be great for our children in the face of what feels like constant demand. The good news is, the opportunity for connection is right before us each day. It’s our hope that Little Sous inspires you to slow down, be present, and learn to be OK with a little mess in your kitchen once in a while.
And what’s more, we are humbled by the opportunity to support your children in their cooking journeys, with engaging classes, content, their very own magazine, plus monthly boxes full of kid-friendly tools and fun activities for the whole clan.
Families, we’re cheering you on.
Co Founder, Little Sous