When it comes to my kitchen, it’s usually just that. My kitchen. For years, guests would always ask if I needed help while preparing meals and my answer was always a resounding, “No, thank you. I’m all set!” To this day, that’s still my answer because the kitchen is my domain. It’s my space where I love to cook, create, bake, flavor, season, taste test, and enjoy a stress relief. It’s also a place for me to escape.
… and then enter kiddos. I love to share my kitchen with kids. A few years ago, when my family visited, I had my younger cousin in the kitchen with me. For my bridal shower, my Mom had the guests write a favorite recipe and place it into a recipe box. One of the recipes was a childhood favorite: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese. My cousin helped me cook the noodles, prepare the roux, add in the cheese, and bake the dish. I had so much fun creating one of my favorite dishes with her. And, I’m pretty sure the love that went into the making the dish made it even more tasty.
A week ago, we had friends visiting from out-of-town. During one of the mornings, I broke out pancake mix, a measuring cup, sausage, and other breakfast essentials. One of our friend’s four-year-old twins found his way into the kitchen. He pulled up my son’s stool and helped me prepare breakfast for everyone. The whole experience was so much fun as we measured, poured, mixed, and flipped.
I cannot wait to start having our two-year-old son cook more often with me in the kitchen. Cooking with kids teaches kids life skills that will help set them up for a successful life. Plus, the end result is a dish that the whole family will love and that will give your child so much pride and a huge sense of accomplishment. Another bonus? Kids are more likely to eat what they make and become more adventurous about trying new foods.
10 Tips for Cooking With Kids
Instead of looking at the task as overwhelming, here are 10 helpful tips to help you enjoy cooking with kids.
1.) Plan Ahead
Sit down with you kiddo if he/she is old enough, flip through a cookbook, and find a recipe that your kid wants to prepare. If your child is younger, then be sure to find a recipe that is age-appropriate. The last thing you want to do when cooking with kids is pick a recipe that is complicated. Both of you will get frustrated as you work your way through the countless steps and ingredients. Remember, food doesn’t have to be complicated to taste good. Pick a recipe that is simple, flavorful, and fun.
2.) Set Up a Kids Cooking Station
You’ll want to be sure you set up your kid for success. Usually counter tops are a bit too high for kids. So, either set out a step stool or place the ingredients and tools on your kitchen table so that supplies are easy to reach. A spot in the kitchen designated just for your kid will help make the experience less stressful.
3.) Expect Mess
It’s going to get messy. If you’re making cookies, flour is going to get everywhere. If you’re frosting cupcakes, frosting is going to get everywhere. If you’re making dinner, veggies will probably make their way to the floor. Clothes are going to be covered in food and stains. Counter tops are going to be sprinkled with crumbs. Floors are going to have all sorts of spills on them. Go into the experience knowing all of this so that your patience isn’t tested.
4.) Practice Patience
Try not to get frustrated when spills happen or kids don’t know what to do. It’s a new experience for kids so you want to be sure you’re as patient as possible. Kids know when adults are frustrated and low on patience. They can sense those things. So, try to avoid the frustrations and just have fun.
5.) Talk Through the Recipe
When you get ready to prepare the recipe, talk through the recipe first to not only let yourself know what needs to happen, but to also let your kids know what will be expected of them in order to prepare the dish. By talking through the recipe, you’ll be able to (hopefully) remain on the same page as you cook your way through the recipe.
6.) Get the Kids Ready
Make sure your kid is wearing clothes that can get messy. Make sure your kids are starting off on the right foot. What helps? A good snooze at night (make breakfast if that happens to be the case), a cooking session after an afternoon nap, food in the belly … all of these things will help your kid have a positive experience while cooking in the kitchen.
7.) Use the Proper Cooking Terms
Kids are sponges when it comes to language. So, instead of using simpler cooking terms, why not use the proper cooking term? You want to be sure you teach kids the proper cooking terms so that they can use them in the future.
8.) Practice Cooking Hygiene and Safety
Wash hands, use proper cooking utensils, clean fruits and vegetables, and make sure you’re avoiding cross-contamination. Teaching your kids the important of cooking hygiene is an important part of the process. Also, don’t put your kids too closes to the stove if they are young. Be sure to avoid sharp knives if need be. It’s all about making sure you are asking the kids to perform steps that are age-appropriate and safe.
9.) Clean As You Go
Cleaning is just as important as cooking. You can teach your kid the importance of cleaning as you make a mess in the kitchen. That way, at the end of the experience, it won’t look like a tornado just went through your kitchen (ok, maybe a little tornado but not a massive tornado).
10.) Keep Your Eyes on the Goal
The goal of the experience is not a restaurant-worthy dish. Instead, the goal is to spend quality time with your kid as your kid learns important life skills and enjoys a bit of independence. If, at the end of the experience, your kid loves to spend time in the kitchen cooking, then job well done!
What’s your favorite tip for cooking with kids?