Looking back on my childhood I have no memories of cooking in the kitchen. I just remember that like magic a meal appeared on the table every evening. But when I moved out of the house as a young adult the only thing I knew how to cook was bacon! Luckily in college there was a dining hall and deliver menus, otherwise I would have starved! But when it was time to start a family I realized that cooking was a skill I needed to have. Now that I am a more experienced cook I try to share this ability with my children as much as possible. While doing this I have realized that my children are learning much more than how to cook. They are practicing following directions, math, and reading while having great time. Most nights my toddler refuses to eat the meal I have cooked. He comes to the table looks at the food and decides he doesn’t like it without trying it. But when he is part of helping cook the meal he eats everything and even tries new foods. Having my toddler help in the kitchen is my secret weapon for getting him to eat.
But like any activity that is done with young children it is not always easy. Making dinner with your children will not get dinner on the table faster. It fact it will take longer and probably be a lot messier. That is what makes it so much fun! Through trial and error I have learned some ways to make cooking with young children go a little smoother. Here are some tips I hope will help you when cooking with children:
- Prepare. Sometime it is better to get set up before bringing the children in the kitchen. School aged children can help gather ingredients and cooking utensils. But when cooking with toddlers it may be better to have everything out and ready to get started. There attention span is shorter so preparing to cook and cooking might be too much for them. Also they might get antsy while waiting.
- Have set rules. Cooking is fun but there are many dangers in the kitchen. Make sure to go over safety rules before getting started. You can even post them in the kitchen so that your children can see them if they are old enough to read. Remind them that the rule of cooking is to wash your hands!
- Time it right. Don’t make dinner with your children when you are in a rush. Adding children to the cooking process slows it down a little bit. Give yourself plenty of time (especially for clean up). This is a learning and a bonding experience you don’t want to rush through it. Be patience and enjoy the moment. Not having enough time with make it too stressful and less fun.
- Set up your kitchen for little chefs. Remember your kitchen equipment is designed for adults not children. You may need step stools so that your children can see and reach everything.
- Pick age appropriate tasks. I give small easy tasks to my toddler. He loves washing fruits and vegetables or using his hands to rip ingredients into smaller pieces (like kale or lettuce). My school aged son can do bigger tasks like reading the recipe, mixing, and pouring ingredients. Both love to help put icing on cakes, even though most of ends up everywhere but on the cake.
- Don’t forget to have fun!!!!!! Cooking with children is not about perfection. Its messy and sometimes a little crazy, but is also extremely fun. There is lots of laughing and tasting along the way. Enjoy it!