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at what age would you let a child do very basic cooking while you are out?

(48 Posts)
Hatwoman Wed 07-Sep-11 23:18:03

some nights we have a bit of a tea time rush. I have to leave to pick dd2 up at 7.30, we get back at 8.30, and then we have dinner. I get dinner as ready as possible before i leave - but there's always at least 10 minutes while, for example, the rice and veg cook - making an already late dinner even later. dd1 -age 11/y7 (who stays at home while I pick up dd2) suggested I leave her instructions to turn things on and have it ready when we walk in the door at 8.30. I'm quite laid back in many respects - but boiling water and gas hobs (without adults present) worry me. It was great of her to offer and I know she'll be insulted if I basically say I can't trust her. what do you think?

meditrina Wed 07-Sep-11 23:25:23

I haven't let mine do that yet - then again the need doesn't arise for us. I'd feel uneasy until mid teens, I think. Burning the house down is simply too scary a prospect (and having seen my perfectly competent mother accidentally set fire to a tea towel probably colours my view on this).

You sound uneasy in your OP. Thank your DD for her concern (she sounds lovely and considerate, BTW) but say not yet (until you are completely easy about the prospect).

cory Thu 08-Sep-11 07:43:53

I would probably be ok with this- assuming that it is a really sensible experienced 11yo and you have done a lot of preparation about how to act in an emergency. Accidents can happen to anyone- it's how you deal with them that counts. Being 11 doesn't necessarily mean you will panic, any more than being 45 necessarily means you will stay calm and rational- it's a combination of personality and training.

I was very reassured when my 9yo tried to boil milk in the kettle (yes, stupid, I know) but had the sense to realise that something was going wrong and unplug the kettle rather than panic and let the place catch fire.

My nephew regularly cooked himself meals at this age, and so did my niece. But they had been well drilled.

NestaFiesta Fri 09-Sep-11 13:15:37

Buy a slow cooker!

Pantone Fri 09-Sep-11 13:17:06

I would let my dd1 do this, she is hardly likely to burn the house down.

notcitrus Fri 09-Sep-11 13:32:58

Sounds OK to me, assuming she's tall enough to reach the cooker. Could you tell her just to turn the hob off and take the pot off the heat if you're worried about her with boiling water?
I'd run through how to put out fires, first aid for scalds, etc, but tbh I was doing most of the cooking from age 10 or so, as my mum was ill (usually in next room giving instructions) and I was taller than her anyway. Maybe get her to do it all a few times while you're around, to show she can?

mousymouse Fri 09-Sep-11 13:37:18

I started to do that when I was around 10y.
if she is sensible and not a total novice in the kitchen I would give it a try.

Hatwoman Fri 09-Sep-11 13:42:35

thanks all. she's very sensible and has always relished responsibility. I think the fears, for me, are rogue tea towels getting near the gas and spills/scalds.

we're going to have a cooking weekend - she's done stuff before - mainly oven stuff though - she can cook cakes and buns without looking up the recipe. so we'll cook lots of different things this weekend and, in doing so, I'll hammer home all the safety stuff.

plinkplonk Fri 09-Sep-11 19:15:07

11 sounds quite good to me - I was definitely making cakes and using the oven way from at least the age of 9. I remember lots of chip-pan fires when I was a young teenager (not reassuring I know, but I certainly knew about throwing a wet tea-towel over burning oil).

seeker Fri 09-Sep-11 19:21:05

11 is fine.

BastardDog Fri 09-Sep-11 19:21:37

I'm not at the stage yet of leaving my 11yo home alone, even for a few minutes. The thought if him cooking with me out of the house fills me with horror. The mess he made this week opening a tin of soup has to be seen to be believed.

I can't see him being ready until 14+, but each child is different and you know your child better than anyone else.

seeker Sat 10-Sep-11 10:10:07

As I have said before on threads like this, if I had raised a NT child to the age of 11 without him or her being able to cook a simple meal and be safe to be left alone for a couple of hours, I would think I had failed.

Hatwoman Sat 10-Sep-11 19:54:56

very helpful seeker. nice of you to imply I am a failure. I have raised an 11 year old* who is capable of cooking. and one who is perfectly happy to be left alone (and has been for more than 3 years now). Combining both, however, is, as the other responses indicate, a sizeable step. My version of failure would be not realising this and not taking time to think it through.

* actually only just 11

cory Sat 10-Sep-11 20:00:39

I think it is reasonable to assume that even technically NT children develop at different paces and it is not always entirely up to the parents. But that whatever safety and independence training we can give is worth giving.

seeker Sat 10-Sep-11 22:24:59

Not implying anything of the sort, hatwoman. Just saying that your child is obviously capable and willing to take on the cooking task, and that's perfectly normal and apporpriarw for her age. It's your worries that are stopping things, nor her confidence or ability.

gelatinous Sun 11-Sep-11 01:42:33

depends what it is - I was called by the neighbouring teenagers in a right panic after they'd set their oven on fire when grilling sausages and couldn't put it out. Wouldn't let younger kids near a chip pan when they were in the house alone either, but most things would be fine for sensible secondary age, unless they're unusually accident prone.

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 01:50:17

Entirely legitimate concerns, Hatwoman, completely disagree with seeker. It depends on your kitchen, too; you have to be sure they can cope with the oddities of your own set-up, eg a burner that never lights properly, etc. With my dc, I had them do it on their own several times with me in the house, to prove they could do it confidently.

gelatinous Sun 11-Sep-11 01:50:17

seeker, I think the OPs 11yo sounds perfectly capable of being left alone for a couple of hours and of cooking a simple meal. The question is whether it's advisable for her to do both at the same time, which definitely does increase the risk of her needing to deal with an emergency situation alone for the first time. As plenty of NT kids are very accident prone, and some are definitely better at handling emergencies (in practice rather than in theory, which is quite different), I think this is something that has to be judged on a case by case basis.

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 01:51:00

Also teens are known to over-estimate their own capabilities.

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 01:52:39

And....tell them not to hesitate to get the neighbours in to help with any truly worrying situation - a scald, etc., a small fire.

seeker Sun 11-Sep-11 07:02:57

"Also teens are known to over-estimate their own capabilities."
Actually, I think parents are known to under estimate their teens capabilities!

Sofabitch Sun 11-Sep-11 07:19:48

My dd is 11 soon. I would leave her for a few hours. But I wouldn't let her cook. Mostly because she doesn't have the experience of cooking yet. She does a few meals with support and supervision but has never cooked totally independently yet. I wouldn't mind her microwaving scrabbled egg and making toast but the oven is different.

inmysparetime Sun 11-Sep-11 07:27:33

Why not make something like cottage pie, stew or lasagne, which can go in the oven. Then all DD needs to do is turn on the oven to an agreed temperature at an agreed time. Most ovens are programmable these days anyway.

maresedotes Sun 11-Sep-11 07:30:28

Why don't you get her to cook when you are there as a practice (you sit in other room) on the nights there isn't a rush? She then has the security of knowing you're there and you can monitor it?

seeker Sun 11-Sep-11 07:35:44

Why is the oven different? I think the microwave is actually more dangerous because there are fewer visual cues about how hot things are.

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