Kids and Cooking: Keeping It Creative, Simple
Unlike what you may have envisioned, cooking with your child doesn’t have to mean countertops sprayed with flour, dangerous knife-wielding, or an army of licorice-jelly bean ladybug treats that no one wants to eat. Kitchen time with your child can be a simple, relaxing, and inexpensive activity (you don’t even need to buy a kids’ cookbook), and one that involves imagination, togetherness, and lasting memories.
Make It Fun
Kids can help from the very beginning of the cooking process.
I either give my daughters a list of choices off the top of my head, or we go through a cookbook and decide together. When they get a chance to have a say in the meal, it makes it more likely that they’ll actually eat what is being served, as well as help me prepare it.
My daughters love to pretend the whole process is a TV cooking show. Your teenagers probably won’t go for this, but your younger ones may. They can make up a name for their pretend cooking show (my younger daughter calls hers “Catelyn’s Kitchen” or “Cookies for Real”), introduce you as the assistant chef and then the cooking can begin. It’s amusing to hear my 8-year-old say “EVOO” or “give it a quick stir” to the pretend camera.
Depending on your child’s age and abilities, you can have them wash and chop items that are easy to work with, such as avocados, lettuce, celery, carrots. Younger kids can measure ingredients, peel vegetables, read recipes, etc. They can also put items into a cool pot and then stir it all up (my girls love to see and smell all the items come together in the pot or bowl).
Safety in the kitchen, especially with young children present, should always be considered. For example, remember to turn stove handles in, use well-insulated potholders, and teach knife safety. Very young children should avoid stoves, ovens, and any sharp utensils.
As the meal is cooking, you can let your child watch the dish “come alive”. Once it is ready, your child will love seeing the end-result, take pride in what they’ve accomplished, and eat something they’ll enjoy.
Keeping It Simple
As I mentioned, you don’t need a special kids’ cookbook to get started cooking with your child. It’s just a matter of finding the recipe that you both think sounds appealing. I like to use recipes that were my mother’s or grandmother’s; my girls find it interesting and fun that the recipes have been handed down generations and that they can make them, too.
Keep in mind that your child doesn’t have to help with every step in the recipe. They can simply help wash vegetables, add spices, roll dough, etc. Just let them feel like they’re part of the cooking process and they’ll enjoy it. So you can even make the most complicated dish, and your child will still feel like they helped prepare it.
If you would like your child to help every step of the way, of course, you can always find kid-friendly recipes online. Here are some links for online recipes and cooking-with-your-kids information:
-Family Fun Recipes:http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/cooking-with-kids/
-Cooking Matters for Chefs and Kids: http://cookingmatters.org/what-we-do/exploring-food-together/
-Kids Cooking Activities: http://www.kids-cooking-activities.com/
When doing this activity, definitely be sure to stress to your child the fun part of cooking. However, and perhaps unbeknownst to them, there are long-term benefits to cooking:
-Measurement education: What’s the difference between a tablespoon vs. a teaspoon? An ounce vs. a pound? Your kids will definitely get familiar with these measurements as they cook with you on a regular basis.
-Cost savings: Cooking at home definitely is cheaper than going out all the time to restaurants.
-Learn about kitchen utensils and appliances: It’s great for kids to know the difference between a spatula and a whisk. Not sure why, but it just is.
-Healthy eating: Food you can cook at home, as opposed to processed foods and entrees you pull out of a package, is generally more nutritious. You can also control the amounts of salt and sugar, as well as potential allergy hazards and other dietary concerns.
-Cooking appreciation: Your kids will see that what is being served takes time, work, and money.
-Time together: In the end, whether it’s cooking, scrapbooking, or even folding laundry together, your child just loves spending time with you. You can work together, talk together, and take pride in what you’ve accomplished together.
Not to mention, it’s great that they’ll also be learning skills they can use the rest of their lives.