Cooking with your kids can be an absolute blast! But you must always prepare yourself for the mess. Just own it. You will be much less stressed out if you accept the probability of a disaster zone. And once you’ve done it a couple of times, you will learn how to stealthily maneuver your children through their own clean-up!
Children love to cook with their parents. It’s a truly “grown-up” thing they can’t wait to try. It also helps you to teach them how to eat properly and how to be safe in the kitchen. And for me, it is an excuse to use some of my favorite kitchen appliances.
For the kids, you can explain what you’re making and why you chose that particular food item. And, one of my favorite things to do is write it down! When you come up with fun, new recipes together, write them down. Take a photo of your dish and put it all together for them in their own cookbook. You’ll love having it later.
These days, I don’t just cook food either. We have had lots of fun making skincare products too, like these lip balms and bath bombs. It’s fun and the kids love giving the end products to their friends.
So, I’ll share some of our favorite cooking experiences with you to get you started! Remember, like everything, it’s all about the prep. Know what you’re going to make and plan ahead. I found a great range of recipes to cook with kids here.
Whenever you decide to bring your kids into the kitchen, make sure to set the kitchen up for them. Lay out a few safe utensils, some plastic, wooden, or metal bowls, and your ingredients. I always let each of them pick one utensil and one bowl to start. You will also want to pick out a few particular ingredients for them to work with. Make sure to remind them that the stove and oven can be hot. This is a great place for a teaching tip.
I know I’ve yelled at both my toddlers for getting close to a hot stove more times than I can count. But once they see why the stove and oven get hot, it’s a little easier for them to remember. It’s like toilet training or walking, once they get the concept, that hyper-active brain kicks into gear and they truly understand what they’re doing. I’m not a fan of keeping your children away from everything that could create discomfort for them. It’s a part of life to experience the unknown and figure it out. It may even be the best part of life.
Next, they choose their ingredients. I separate them into different groups. Meat, vegetable, fruit, starch, and spice are my staple groups. I typically don’t let them touch the raw meat or get too close to the heat, but I let them choose “how” they want to cook it. Do they want to bake it in the oven or grill it on the bbq? Do they want to put any spice on it? Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra industrious, I create a menu for them to mark their choices before we start to cook. But when I’m feeling a little lazier, I just ask. It’s great for them to see that you can cook things in different ways. However, it is fairly irritating once they’re a little trained in the kitchen because then they start asking for things like “braised spinach” for breakfast. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I have them tear the lettuce for salads. This is a fun, and slightly messy, time for kids. But if you give them a decent workspace and a large bowl, they’ll usually get most of it in. And then they can easily clean up the surrounding lettuce-mess. Teaching them to clean up as they go comes in handy for later in life. The giant sink pile-up is a bear for everyone. Then they can add in the cherry tomatoes and carrot slices themselves and, voila, your toddlers have made a salad! They, and you, will be so proud. This is also great for letting older kids share in introducing younger ones to solids.
Their favorite part of helping with the meal is, of course, dessert. Short bread cookies are a parent’s best friend. I always have a log in the fridge and one in the freezer, ready to be cooked at the drop of a hat. And the real beauty? You can make as much or little of it as you like. It stays fresh for like a thousand years, so you can make a few cookies here and there. They cook in about ten minutes and you can FROST THEM! That’s the best part. I typically have a few squeezy icing tubes laying around for the kids to use. They are perfect for kid cooking. Even if you don’t do the entire meal, you can always teach your kids to be safe in the kitchen using cookies. Try it. You will be impressed with how much your kids enjoy it!