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Kids in the Kitchen

Preparing food with little ones can be downright chaotic. In my family, it’s battle-like with plastic spatulas for weapons. If I walk out of the kitchen and return one minute and fourteen seconds later, I am greeted with a shower of flour and a pelting of melted butter. It’s as if the mini-chefs opened a gargantuan bag of icing sugar in front of a heavy-duty fan and aimed it at every teeny-tiny corner of the kitchen. Gleefully. In the end, though, I want my girls to be independent and comfortable in the kitchen. Everyone benefits from having children who can cook. It’s a confidence boost for them; it’s fun; it’s economical (versus going to a restaurant to eat) and it’s a great future skill.

To encourage your little chefs, here are eight sanity-saving tips to encourage kid-friendly family time in the kitchen:

1.  Less is more and more is YUM

Starting easy and keeping recipes non-complicated and engaging is the best way to motivate kids to be future chefs. Begin with just a few foolproof staples for your youngest child and add more as they get older. Be willing to adapt and/or substitute ingredients when you live in a new country. Choose foods that your children love. Find your inspiration online, in magazines and in cookbooks.

For a taste of something local, here are four kid-friendly, Qatari cuisine-inspired recipes you can try out at home.

2. Responsibility first

Be sure to go over kitchen safety rules with your kids before starting to cook. Make sure that you always talk about fire safety, burn prevention and food/water contamination. Teach little ones not to be wasteful with fans and lighting, paper towels and cooking ingredients. Show your kids how to recycle, conserve and be mindful of using too much tap water, particularly in a desert country like Qatar.

3. That’s my whisk!

Invest in some cooking tools for your mini-chefs. You do not have to spend a fortune on these utensils. IKEA and Home Centre have a great supply of kid-friendly cooking tools or you can always order them online. You can also buy, borrow or make aprons for the kids. Having their own cooking tools and aprons will help them feel included.

4. All in the family

Cook as a team. Put on some music and dance while you create in the kitchen as a family. Tell stories. Laugh with each other. Have fun! My husband makes the best omelettes and crêpes and he has taught my girls this valuable talent. My girls love my mum’s apple crisp, buttermilk biscuits and strawberry-rhubarb pie and they now know how to make these recipes (with help). When we have family visiting or when we visit relatives back at home, we share favourite recipes. It’s a cultural exchange.

5. Use your brain

We often use cooking time as a learning experience. We talk about where we live, culture, traditions, etc. In Qatar, we chat about falconry, camel racing, religion and what life is like for local kids and expat/third culture kids living in Qatar and other Gulf countries. We also talk about social issues, politics and current events—all geared towards kids, of course. But it doesn’t have to be all “heavy” topics—simple chatter and silliness is good too. It’s helpful to remember that kids should have time to be kids, even in the kitchen.

6. Go local

Choose recipes from your host country or region. Inspire your kids to learn more about where they live. In Qatar, this could mean anything mezze inspired. My girls have lived for several years in the Middle East and love dishes like hummus, tabbouleh and couscous.

7. At ease, soldier

Assign roles. Allocate little jobs to each kid so they share the tasks. My littlest one loves to sift icing sugar while my middle daughter likes to crack eggs and my eldest daughter enjoys reading the recipe out loud as well as weighing the ingredients. They are all very different in their personalities, which is evident when they cook. You can also switch it up from time to time so that no one feels left out.

8. Clean up your mess

Teaching kids to be responsible means showing them how to clean up after themselves. Cooking is just as much about cleaning up as it is preparation. For kids, a structured clean-up works best in terms of time-efficiency as well as encouraging leadership and independence in the kitchen.

In the end, cooking with kids can be complete chaos. However, the family time gained is indispensable and irreplaceable. Besides, who doesn’t love a little extra powdered sugar in their life? Sneak in a little taste. Life is sweet.

If you’d rather leave the lessons to the professionals, here are some cooking classes for kids around Doha:

Carluccio’s Restaurant

Dates and times: 

Gnocchi Making For Kids, 14 November 2015, 10:00-12:00
Pizza Making for Kids, 5 December 2015, 10:00-12:00
Christmas Cookie Decorating For Kids, 26 December 2015, 10:00-12:00
Ravioli Making For Kids, 9 January 2016, 10:00-12:00
Gnocchi Making For Kids, 23 January 2016, 10:00-12:00

Location: Parcel 10, The Pearl

Ages: 4-16 years old (children 4-10 years need to be supervised by parents, children 10+ can be dropped off)

Cost: QR 130 per adult and child pair (65 QR for one child without parent or for additional child)
Registration required at least one week before activity date, please call +974 6690-1777
Please note, there is a minimum of 15 kids and a maximum of 25 kids.

What makes this venue unique:

This family-friendly, Italian-cuisine hotspot allows kids to take home extra pizza dough after their classes to test their creations and confidence in their own kitchen (with parental supervision). Class fees cover free drinks for participating parents and children as well as ice cream post-class for the beginning chefs.

Al Dana Restaurant

Dates and times: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00

Location: Sharq Village & Spa

Ages: 10-16 years

Cost: QR 180 per child
Registration required, please call +974 4425-6666

What makes this venue unique:

Al Dana offers a variety of themes for their kids’ cooking classes—from Italian and French to Asian and Middle Eastern fusion. The restaurant boasts a fantastic show kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment as well as a safe cooking environment for beginners. Highly skilled professional chefs are on hand to guide children and encourage healthy, interesting and fun dishes.

Café Céramique

Dates and times:
Fruity Orange Chiffon Cakes, 7 November 2015, 11:00-13:00
Colourful Cupcakes, 5 December 2015, 11:00-13:00
Chocolate Brownies, 2 January 2016, 11:00-13:00

Location: Café Céramique, The Mall, D-Ring Road

Ages: 3 years and above

Cost: QR 150 per child

What makes this venue unique:

We like that Céramique combines art and food in a fun setting for kids. Typically, this café is known for being a place where children can create and decorate ceramic artwork, however, these cooking classes are a lively spin on the traditional art class. Kids can paint/create ceramic art for an additional fee either before or after the cooking classes. Cooking class fees include free face painting and free drinks for the little chefs.

Pizza Express

Dates and times: Ongoing, call to reserve

Location: Landmark, Villaggio and City Centre Malls

Ages: No age limitation for kids

Cost: QR 28 per child

What makes this venue unique:

Although it is technically not a cooking class, this “make your own pizza” activity certainly encourages kids’ creativity in the kitchen. Your mini-chefs sit at the massive kitchen preparation table wearing aprons and customized Pizza Express chef hats. With guidance from the kitchen staff, kids can pick toppings to create their own pizzas. The kids’ cooking package includes colour and games sheets, juice, dough balls (to take home), fresh toppings and a scoop of ice cream.

TARA KNIES-FRAITURE IS A FORMER FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHER WHO HAS SPENT THE PAST DECADE AS A GLOBAL NOMAD WITH HER HUSBAND AND THREE SPUNKY DAUGHTERS. SHE HAS BEEN FREELANCE WRITING AND EDITING FOR YEARS WITH A FOCUS ON EXPAT FAMILY LIFE. SHE BELIEVES HUMOUR IS A KEY PART OF LOVING LIFE. IN HER FREE TIME, TARA IS AN EXPERT CHOCOLATE TASTER. SHE HAS BEEN LIVING IN DOHA FOR JUST OVER A YEAR.

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