I think maybe that should be, what age do you have the patience to teach to cook. Personally, I started to teach my daughter to cook when she was about 2 and a half. I started by letting her add ingredients to my bowl and have a turn at stirring. We’d chat away about what it was we were making. If it was biscuits I’d say “shall we put these on when they’re done”. All of them loved to play with the dough, as well as rolling it out. Sometimes they would say “can I have some of the dough to play with”, so they would play with it like plasticine while the other things cooked. When it was just the oldest it was quite peaceful and we both loved every minute, mess and all. When she was 3, I had twins. Obviously the baking stopped for a while!
When the twins weren’t old enough to join in, my daughter and I cooked when they were asleep sometimes, (depending on the exhaustion levels of mum). she had a small bowl and I had a big one. Whatever went into my bowl went into hers. She was so pleased with the cake she made herself from scratch.
Then the twins would join us when they were perhaps a little younger than she had been – putting stuff in, mostly when I wasn’t looking! To them it was playtime, but playtime is also a learning curve. They were occupied and therefore not falling out from boredom either. Sometimes it was hectic, well mostly actually, but it was always fun. Don’t get into a lather about a bit of mess – it will clean up! You do need patience though hence my introductory sentence.
The answer is for me, young as possible. Obviously no oven action. That comes later. Safety first is always the thing. Whether they were helping or I was cooking myself, pan handles were always turned inwards, (I still do it now). Every time I fetched anything from the oven, I reminded them not to touch because it was hot – never expect them to remember from last time when they are small. Before this, they were never allowed in the kitchen. We had a gate between the living room and the kitchen doorway which I could step over and they could stand and look over. They were safe, I could see them and I could get on with cooking.
It was good for teaching, good for learning, good for bonding. Now if they want to, they can cook just about anything. They don’t say I could never cook that – they’re willing to have a go, which is what its all about. A cook book isn’t a mystery and they know what “rubbing in” means. Hopefully, and I’m sure they will. They will cook with their kids.