With so many children participating in distance learning at home, now is the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to the magic of cooking. Kids of all ages can help out during meal prep to learn the ropes and do their part to make a tasty treat or mouthwatering meal.
During stressful times, having helpers in the kitchen may seem overwhelming. With the right tips and mindset, your family can have fun together in the kitchen while making meals and memories.
Invest in Education
Teaching kids to cook goes beyond simple safety tips and cutting skills. With supplemental materials, you can educate your children about the history behind a dish and the region where the food originated. Make your mealtime interactive and educational with a lesson plan.
We recommend e-kits from Raddish Kids. These kits include everything you need to make three meals a month with your children: a full ingredient list, an applicable culinary school, a laminated recipe guide, and educational activities that focus on geography and community. Transform your kitchen into a world of possibilities with a roadmap to guide you.
Assign Appropriate Tasks
Don’t entrust your toddler with cubing vegetables, and don’t expect your teen to enjoy a menial task like greasing a pan. Cooking activities for kids should correspond with their motor skills and problem-solving abilities. As your children age, they will be able to execute more complex tasks in the kitchen.
Cabot has an excellent guide to cooking tasks for kids of all ages. While elementary schoolers will be able to boil eggs and pasta under supervision, they won’t be comfortable with intricate recipe prep for a few years. By keeping the cooking activities age-appropriate, you avoid safety issues and keep your kids invested and entertained.
Take Proper Precautions
Some parents fear adding their children to the mix due to safety concerns. Thinking ahead and avoiding common pitfalls will give you and your kid plenty of room for error and fun without a cut finger or burnt hand. While cooking at home with kids, follow these best practices:
- Instill in your kids the need to wash their hands before cooking, after cooking, and after handling raw meat. Choose a fun 20-second song to sing while washing to ensure everyone’s hands are properly clean.
- Allocate more time than you usually do for cooking. Rushing your children will cause stress and could lead to accidents in the kitchen.
- When using knives, keep them behind the cutting board in between steps. If curious kids accidentally topple a cutting board, you don’t want a sharp knife falling with it.
- Speaking of knives, use your sharpest knives when teaching chopping. This tip may seem counterintuitive, but sharp blades will glide gently through food. Duller knives are more likely to slip and cause injury.
- Always supervise your children when using knives to keep their fingers far away from the blade.
- Turn the handles of your pots and pans away from the front edge of the stove to prevent boiling water from spilling.
- Teach kids to use a potholder or oven mitt when handling hot items or cooking meals in the oven.
Expect a Mess
The key to enjoying cooking with kids is to manage your expectations. You can emphasize cleanliness and take breaks to clear away whisks and cutting boards from their work station, but cooking is inevitably messy. Throw a couple of kids into the mix, and you can expect that mess to magnify.
Accept that you will have to wipe some pasta sauce off the floor, and some cookie dough will find its way onto your shirt. It’s all part of the fun! If you allow the mess to stress you out, your kids will detect your negative energy, and you might accidentally turn them off cooking entirely.
Mitigate messes by outfitting your family in matching aprons before you begin a recipe. This method creates a “uniform” for the kitchen that makes your family feel like a team.
Divide Into Teams
Is your entire family on deck to help prep your spaghetti and salad dinner? The more, the merrier. To help things go smoothly, divide into teams. Read through the recipe and assign tasks based on skill level, safety, and interest. You can designate “captains” to supervise — maybe Mom, Dad, and the oldest sibling can assist the younger children in various cooking tasks.
This way, one group is washing lettuce and prepping salad while another group is boiling pasta, and yet another group is preparing the ingredients for the marinara sauce. If your kids respond well to sports and competition, you can even choose a “winner” at the end of cooking and award a small prize.
Encourage Tasting and Touching
Cooking is a tactile experience. Who can forget sneaking a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough as a child and enjoying a taste? Especially with younger children, allow them to appreciate each ingredient and each step in the cooking process.
Let your children lick the beaters after whipping up a batch of cream. Direct them to run their fingers over the dirt-encrusted carrots and mushrooms before you wash them. Allow them to squish their hands into a bowl of raw ground meat, even if it means another handwashing. A hands-on learning approach will have a lasting impact on inquisitive children.
Cooking at Home With Chefs’ Toys
By following these tips and tricks, you can lay a strong cooking foundation for your kids. Have patience and enjoy it while it lasts — before long, your young ones will be eagerly reaching for the cookbook to try a new recipe on their own.