The kitchen is often overlooked as a great place to spend some time with your kids. We often think of cooking as a chore, or an activity that takes us away from the family. But it can actually be fun for you and for them if you make it a special part of their day, or perhaps a special weekend activity, depending on how hectic your family’s schedule is.
Getting your kids into the kitchen with you has many advantages. They can have fun and feel good about helping prepare a meal, all while learning skills, good eating habits and confidence. And they won’t even be aware they are getting an education.
They’ll learn what makes a healthy meal and how to cook it. What better opportunity to explain to them why it’s healthier to use cooking spray in the pan than butter, or use fresh ingredients instead of processed foods? The more they hear about the healthy choices you’re making for them now, the more they’ll be able to make healthy choices later in life.
It’s also a great way to get picky eaters up to the table, especially if you let them have input in to the ingredients. They’ll be more likely to eat what they cook themselves because they are proud of what they have accomplished.
Cooking can also give kids a sense of confidence in their own abilities. It will improve their decision making process, their fine motor skills and their understanding of basic cooking principles. Younger kids learn the importance of following instructions, while older kids are able to practice their reading and math and how to apply them. These are all skills that will help them grow into confident, competent and independent adults.
To help make all of your cooking endeavors successful, here are some sanity savers for cooking with kids…
- For young kids, start them off with recipes that don’t require the use of the stove, to avoid a potential danger. Salads, chocolate dipped strawberries and sandwiches are all great choices for little ones.
- Let them get involved as much as possible by using kid friendly utensils. Plastic knives like the kind that come with takeout are great for little fingers learning how to chop and peel. These kinds of activities are excellent for developing fine motor skills.
- Give them each their own bowl to dump ingredients into. If there’s a measuring mistake you can fix it when they aren’t looking and no harm is done to anyone else’s recipe.
- Make sure they have their own spoons to mix with and – once they’re done the mixing – to lick!
- Keep a bowl of soapy water and a towel handy so that when fingers are licked they can be easily cleaned again.
- Stick to recipes that, if they don’t turn out perfectly, it’s no big deal. The only dessert to be served at Thanksgiving dinner is probably not what you want toddlers helping you make.
- Work in opportunities for your helpers to make choices, and to come up with fun ideas for things to add to what they are cooking. Some variation in a recipe can often make it even tastier (and if it doesn’t, well, that’s a lesson, too). Encouraging their creativity is a great way to get them to eat what they’ve cooked and give them a sense of adventure in the kitchen that will serve them well later in life.
- Finally, let them have fun. The more fun they have in the kitchen as kids, the more likely they will be happy cooks when they grow up.
About the Author: Jennifer Kirkpatrick has been cooking with her children since they were old enough to hold a wooden spoon. It gets crazy sometimes but the great memories make it all worthwhile. When she’s not in the kitchen, Jennifer runs the online children’s shop Pipsqueak Boutique where their best sellers include first birthday gifts and their own line of birthday shirts for toddlers.