Kids in the Kitchen: The Power of Pancakes

By Nancy Blakey

This is a small story about skills learned, confidence earned, and one simple way to make an extraordinary memory for a child. It began as such a simple thing. One rainy afternoon our 4-year-old asked if he could cook something. The refrigerator was bare that day, and the cupboards mostly empty except for a box of pancake mix. I pulled it out and decided to see how far he could take this on his own. I gave him a small pitcher of water, poured the mix in a bowl and told him to stir it together. I had an old electric skillet that I plugged in and set on the kitchen bench. I told him I thought he was old enough now to make his own pancakes if he was careful, and this middle child of four glowed. I poured the pancake mix in another small pitcher, I sprayed cooking spray on the skillet and he began to carefully, gently pour tiny pancakes. I showed him how the bubbles forming told when they were ready to flip. I demonstrated the flip on one.

“You are on your own,” I said as I turned to the sink and washed dishes, watching him out of the corner of my eye as this normally headlong careless child moved slowly, deliberately, and with great concentration. He did not get burned, there was little mess. He told his siblings with great pride about his pancake prowess when they came home from school. It was something they had not done before for once, and they showed great interest in his story.

Flipping pancakes has saved me on many flat dark afternoons, and added more than filling a belly with self-made food—a pleasure in itself. It has brought self-reliance, a sense of capability, and a secret inner glow that Mama believed he was old enough for an adult task.

Today I have a small tribe of grandchildren, and I am pleased to say that I still have that old electric skillet and now the spatula has passed on to them. Yesterday before school my 5-year-old granddaughter dropped a hundred blueberries on top of her pancake, and I looked the other way as she struggled to flip it. It crashed and spilled and sprawled over all the other pancakes.

“Perfect!” She cried. “I did it!”

And it was, and she did.



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