I love cooking with my boys and having them help me is not only a great way for them to take care of their family later down the road, but it is educational for them too. I have put together 10 tips that will help you when cooking with kids. Some of them may seem common and sense, but I hope you find some that are useful.
Tip 1. Set Aside Time. Teaching your kids how to cook requires patience and time. Don’t rush, as cooking will be safer and more enjoyable.
- Make cooking part of family time; figure out when most family members are available to join in on the fun!
- Allow extra time for clean up for messier recipes or for when accidents occur.
- Cook in larger quantities so that you can meal prep and save more time in the long run.
Tip 2. Have Kids Pick the Recipe. Kids will be more excited to cook a recipe they personally picked out!
- See what you have in the fridge and pantry first, and look up easy-to-follow, kid-friendly recipes according to what you already have.
- Give your child the freedom to choose between two recipes so they aren’t overwhelmed with too many choices.
Tip 3. Set Up the Workspace. Make cooking less stressful by making the workplace child-friendly beforehand. Keep potentially dangerous kitchen tools out of reach and away from their workspace. Make sure that the child can focus on the task at hand with limited distractions.
- Setting up the workspace before bringing the child into the kitchen creates less stress and anxiety for the parent and more emphasis on bonding. So, have the ingredients and equipment out prior is a good rule of thumb.
- If the child is younger and cannot use hot tools or knives, the parent can chop and/or cook certain items so that the child can be in charge of the assembly process.
- Rice bowls, salads, and parfaits are great introductory dishes that allow the child to use their creativity and motor skills to arrange the fruits and veggies as they wish.
Tip 4. Tips for good kitchen hygiene
- Ensure they wash their hands beforehand and in between touching raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Put them in clothes that are properly fitted so there is not dangling clothes that could cause your sleeve to get stuck and a potential accident with a hot soup or beverage to take place.
- Pull back long hair.
- Have fun and use a chef hat and apron to keep your hair away and clothes protected.
Tip 5. Kids are the Food Prep Helpers. Depending on the age of the child, they can help with washing, peeling, deseeding, juicing, measuring, or cutting the produce.
- Recipes that include sauces are a great learning opportunity for measurements.
- If the child is too young for cutting produce, find recipes that they can use their hands for mixing such as veggie-burgers.
- Use your sharpest knives. Dull knives are actually more dangerous.
- Two keys to safety are first:
- Monitor children to make certain their fingers stay a safe distance from the blade.
- Allow children to slice only items that have a flat surface and sit solidly on the cutting board; prep rounded foods like onions or apples into halves and place them on the cutting board cut-side down so the foods are sitting flat.
- Two keys to safety are first:
Tip 6. Learning opportunities in the kitchen. As you're cooking, talk about ingredients and their origins, cooking processes, and techniques.
- Cooking can be a great way to learn about science, geography, and math (through weighing) in a practical way.
- It is good for sensory, fine motor skills, and coordination too.
- Try out the meal monster app
- Meal Monsters is an animated educational app that combines recipes, games, and storytelling to encourage kids to cook and eat healthy meals. My kids love anything related to the iPad. So this was perfect. We tried out a few recipes and my kids loved the process. It is essentially like a talking visual cookbook. My four year old particularly liked it and was able to make the berry blast smoothie from start to finish all by himself following the steps in the meal monsters app. If you want to learn more about the meal monsters app, head to their website MEAL MONSTERS.
Tip 7. Allow Children to Make Mistakes and Messes. Give up some control and give your kids confidence in the kitchen. The steps of the recipe may be out of order, or the measurements might be slightly off, but they can feel more independent and feel encouraged to help in the kitchen more often.
- Parents, remember to taste as you go! If a measurement is off you can easily adjust accordingly along the way.
- Never cry over an egg on the floor. Seriously! So far it has happened twice in our house.
- Cleaning up as you go is a wise habit to encourage but don't overdo it or it will take the fun away.
Tip 8. Let kids lick the beaters, spoons, and their fingers. Not only is licking your fingers fun, but it helps children experience food through all their senses. (Just remind them to wash their hands after licking their fingers.)
- Lick the beaters after whipping up cream, but before adding sugar or vanilla to experience real creaminess.
- Taste a spoonful of the soup before and after adding salt; if children like the soup even before salt, you may be able to add less salt.
- This also is a great lesson in teaching them what is safe for tasting raw and what isn't.
Tip 9. Allow your kids to touch everything, even raw meat, and eggs. Teach your children where their food comes from and how it feels.
- Have them touch dirt-encrusted vegetables.
- Discover the differing feel of fresh mushroom gills and smooth mushroom tops.
- Have them help you mix up meatloaf by squishing their hands in the raw ground meat and eggs.
- Children will be more apt to try new food when they've invested in the preparation of it.
Tip 10. Eat dessert first. Nothing kills the joy of measuring and mixing up a batch of oatmeal cookies like being told you'll have to wait until after dinner to taste them.
- If my kids eat dessert before dinner, that's fine; then it's seen as a component of the meal, not a reward for eating veggies. Also, they aren't eating dessert at the end of the meal, when their tummies might already be full.
In the end, cooking with kids helps them learn directions, preparing for the future of taking care of themselves, and helps with various skills. Enjoy and have fun!