Cooking is so much more then dumping ingredients into a bowl and hoping a delicious dish pops out of the oven. For your kids it’s learning math and science, it’s having fun with their mom, it’s making a mess and it’s discovering something new. While cooking with kids can be frustrating for a parent who just wants to get the meal made and in the oven, it can be a bonding time that your children will remember forever. So slow down and take some time to plan your kids into the meal preparation time! Here are a few tips on how to include your children while cooking and what you can teach them during the process.
· Involve Them in the Planning!
Let little Timmy decide what sounds good for dinner that night (you may have to help him by giving him a few options). Then let them help you make the ingredient list, shop for the produce or find the needed ingredients in your pantry. Whenever possible, let them make choices about the meal.
· Create a Safe Environment
Give them their own workspace at a height that’s convenient for them. Let them have their own spoon, children’s knife, bowl etc. Don’t worry if their space gets messy and unorganized…just let them have fun in it!
· Use Dirty Produce
Think we’re joking? We’re not! Take your kids to the farmers market and have them pick out the produce. Let them see their food with dirt on it and teach them about how food grows, what a farmer does, how rain affects the growing process, and why we need to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
· Measure Up
Get them up close and personal with the fractions used in baking and cooking. Teach them about using one cup or one half of a cup. For kids that are in grade school and learning fractions, this is an excellent hands-on opportunity. For kids who are too young for fractions, have them count how many times they stir the brownie batter or how many eggs go into the mix.
· Follow Instructions
As children learn how to read, have them read the recipe and/ or ingredient list for you. They will increase their vocabulary and learn the importance of following directions in a specific order.
· Introduce New Foods
Kids are more likely to try a new food if they are involved in the preparation of it and are able to handle it before it’s prepared. If you can get them to use the food in a creative way (mushrooms, olives and pepperoni to make a face on a pizza) they are also more likely to try it.
· Other Little Tips
o Let them press the buttons on the blender/ food processor
o Give them a rolling pin and have them roll part of the cookie dough alongside you
o Cut a sandwich with a cookie cutter to give it a fun shape
o Have them help with clean-up
o Cook when you aren’t starving…just enjoy the process!
PBS Parents. (n.d.). Cooking with kids. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness/eat-smart/cooking-with-kids/
Gastrokid. (2004, March 24). Top 10 tips for cooking with kids. Retrieved from http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/top-10-tips-for-cooking-with-kids