Some of the most engaging activities for you to do with your child can take place in your very own kitchen! Whether its teaching your kids to help cook easy family recipes, or baking up something sweet for a special occasion, kids love to eat food and will definitely enjoy making it too. So next time you’re about to whip up dinner before soccer practice or bake cookies for grandma, here are some ways you can make it fun and safe for you and your child to do together.
Let them pick out the recipe
Kids like to feel in charge, so one way to spark their interest is to give them some options and let them choose what to make. Or, let them help you browse ingredients at the grocery store and decide what they’d like to cook. Don’t feel like you have to stick to kid friendly meals, even the most difficult of recipes will have something your child can help with. The more you encourage them to want to explore exciting foods, the less you’ll have to cook children’s meals like boxed mac & cheese or frozen chicken nuggets every night. And who knows, once you get your child hooked on cooking, maybe they will be the one staying up late pinning cute lunch ideas for kids and writing grocery lists.
If you’re the one feeling daunted, start with some easy meals for kids to help with like chocolate chip pancakes, homemade chicken tenders, or pigs in a blanket!
Create jobs just for them
Once you’re in the kitchen, don’t let cooking with kids turn into you cooking and them watching hungrily. Put them in charge of something they can accomplish on their own. If they’re learning to read, have them read the directions and hand you the next ingredients. Let them do all the stirring, mixing, and dipping. Some others easy tasks for kids might be washing fruits and veggies or pouring ingredients in. When baking with kids, let them roll out dough, attempt to measure flour, and turn stand mixers on and off!
Your child can also be involved in less complicated meals like sandwiches or salads. If it’s a simple no-cook children’s meal, encourage kids to find fun ways to plate it. Challenge them to come up with creative designs using fruits or veggies. Not only will this get them excited about making their own food, but about eating it, too!
Teach them what you know
Egg cracking, knife holding, food seasoning, and even water boiling - skills you probably take for granted these days. While you have your child engaged under the guise of “fun,” teach them all the things you know about cooking as you’re doing it. Explain to them why you’re not dumping salt in by the pound, show them the safest way to hold a knife. If it’s a step that maybe your child isn’t quite ready for, make sure you describe what you’re doing and how you’re doing it safely. And in a few years when your child reaches over to pull the cookies out of the oven, you can feel confident knowing that they reached for the oven mitts first.
At the same time, cooking with your child shouldn’t feel like kid’s cooking classes. Remember that first and foremost, inviting kids into the kitchen should be a fun way to enjoy food as a family while learning along the way.
Have them help with set up & clean up
Parents know that more than just the cooking goes into getting dinner on the table at night. If your child is already helping you out in the kitchen as you prepare food, encourage them to pick up some extra responsibility and help set the table or clear the dishes from the delicious meal they’ve made. Younger kids might enjoy folding napkins into fun shapes while you place the silverware, older kids can play “waitress” and offer to take everyone’s dishes to the sink when you’re finished with the meal.
Most importantly - make it fun!
Cooking with your child should be a fun experience for the both of you. They get to learn how to make delicious food and you get company and an extra set of hands in the kitchen. And often, the most fun part of cooking with kids is that you have an excuse to be messy! By the time you’re finished, expect your counter to be covered in flour and your to be fingers sticky with food.
Some other ways to make kids cooking a fun activity might be to turn it into a game. Pretend you’re hosting a cooking show and this is the final challenge! Or add a secret ingredient that everyone else at the table will have to guess later! And don’t forget to always sample the food as you go. Let your child lick cake batter off the spatulas or taste a little piece of dinner as it comes out of the oven. For kids, eating food as they make it is half the fun.
Whatever you end up making, the best part will be the memories!