Many children are fascinated with the idea of exploring cooking. Parents who invite their children into the kitchen open up a whole new world for them to learn about. Even young children have the capacity to learn how to cook if given the chance. Parents who try cooking with kids may uncover hidden talents in their children while enjoying the fun.
The Benefits of Introducing Cooking to Your Children
There are many benefits to teaching a child how to cook. Younger children have the opportunity to practice such fine motor skills as cutting, pouring, stirring, etc. Older kids can hone their math and reading skills by learning to measure ingredients, read and alter recipes. You can also teach your kids about the ingredients that go into a meal so they can learn more about nutrition and creating healthy menus.
Teaching your kids to cook can help them develop a love for cooking from the time they are small. They’ll also cultivate culinary arts skills that can help them as they grow into teens and adults. Cooking is a practical and valuable life skill that every adult can benefit from, whether they remain single or get married and start a family. Learning how to cook saves money on eating out and enables people to share special meals with family and friends from the comfort of their own homes.
Cooking with your children can help in promoting healthier eating habits. If your child is a picky eater, he may be more enthusiastic in eating meals he helps to prepare. It also encourages children to try foods they never wanted to try before. By introducing your kids to healthy, tasty recipes, you encourage them to eat more nutritious snacks and meals.
From scrumptious baked desserts to three-course dinners, there is no shortage of fun things to cook with kids. By gleaning cooking recipes for kids from cookbooks, food magazines or the Internet, you can create your own cooking with kids cookbook that will provide you with hours of kitchen fun and pleasure.
Tips for Cooking with Kids
If you have ever wondered if you would enjoy cooking with your kid, the answer is an unequivocal “yes!” The following tips can help you turn cooking into a fun, safe and educational experience for your children. Learning how to cook with kids is key to getting the most from the time you spend together in the kitchen. Here are some valuable tips to help you get started:
Never schedule a cooking lesson when you are on a tight schedule. Cook with your kids when you have plenty of time, such as preparing a weekend breakfast or dinner for the family. When cooking with kids, you need extra time to teach as you go. You also want to ensure the kids are rested and up to the occasion by slotting this special activity into their schedule.
If you’re going to cook a special meal, take time to plan it in advance. Ask your older kids to help in choosing recipes and preparing the menu. The Internet offers a wealth of information when it comes to cooking recipes for kids. You can save a lot of time (and frustration) by selecting tried and proven recipes that you find in local cookbooks or online. These recipes often come with a step by step guide on how to incorporate children into the meal prep along with ideas for teaching health and nutrition along the way.
Share the Tasks
Once you’ve chosen your recipes, take time to divide the tasks among your children so they know what role they will play in preparing the meal. Younger children can have easier tasks such as pouring, sifting or stirring ingredients in a bowl while older kids can help with peeling or cutting vegetables, measuring ingredients or arranging food in appealing designs. Older kids can also read the recipe out loud, guiding their siblings in their assigned tasks.
For meals such as pizza that have a multitude of ingredients, you may want to set up an assembly line where everyone can take part in adding toppings. Advanced meal prep such as washing fruits or veggies, cutting up chicken, etc., makes it easier for kids to get involved in the cooking process right away, so they don’t get bored.
Make sure all your kids have the tools they need to get their work done. Younger children may need a stool or chair to stand on in order to reach the counter and safe utensils for stirring. Older kids will need safe knives for cutting and hot pads for handling pots and pans on the stove. All kids will need their own apron to protect their clothes.
Children should always be well supervised when they’re in the kitchen. The younger the children, the more supervision they will need. Before starting any cooking project with your kids, it’s good to review such safety rules as what equipment they’re allowed to use or touch, who can cook on the stove and when, use of sharp knives, kitchen cleanliness and hygiene, etc. By assigning your kids age appropriate cooking tasks and ensuring they abide by the rules, you reduce the risk of cooking accidents. You also help establish safe cooking habits for the future.
Have a Good Time
Cooking with kids should be an enjoyable experience. It’s not a time to be concerned about kitchen messes, perfect dishes or having meals exactly on time. By all means, take precautions to avoid cooking disasters. At the same time, expect slip ups to occur and be prepared for some disorder. Learn to laugh at your mistakes and try again to get it right.
When it comes to cooking, children are just as interested and excited in the process as they are in the final product. Your reactions to their culinary experiences will either turn your kids on or off to cooking as they get older. By making cooking fun, your kids will look forward to spending this time together. You’ll also create some amazing memories to look back on of your cooking experiences as a family.
How to Make Things Fun
Laura Schein, instructor at Ryerson University School of Early Childhood Studies, is a firm advocator of cooking with kids in the classroom and at home. In addition to the above tips, she encourages parents to include their children when preparing special meals for birthdays or holidays as part of their family tradition. By engaging children in cooking activities at an early age, parents can help their kids develop culinary arts skills they can later use in their adult lifestyle.
Organization and inspiration are key ingredients for cooking with kids, whether at home or in the classroom setting. In her book My Life in France, American chef Julia Child states, “…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Here are some steps teachers and parents can take to help their kids develop early culinary arts skills and enjoy more successful cooking experiences.
- Create a kid-friendly cooking environment
- Divide cooking tasks according to a child’s ability and age
- Give yourself plenty of leeway to complete your cooking activity
- Have all ingredients and tools on hand to get the snack or meal done
- Choose interesting (and yummy) cooking with kids recipes
- Encourage children to help in creating their own menus
- Teach kids about health and nutrition as you go
- Ask a professional chef to visit and give a cooking class
- Sign up for professional cooking classes with your kids
- Praise your kids for their participation and kitchen accomplishments
If you’re going to take the time to teach your kids how to cook, make it count. Teach them how to use healthy ingredients to prepare healthy (and delicious) snacks and meals. Hundreds of healthy recipes to cook with kids can be found online. Here are just a few:
- Golden fried fish and chips
- Holiday pizza
- Blueberry flapjacks
- Homemade granola
- Chinese spring rolls
- Potato salad
- Spaghetti with meat balls
- Chef salad
- Ham and cheese mini omelets
- Carrot cake
- Pecan muffins
When you cook with kids, perfection shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal should be to share special times together as a family, learning as you go. The more your kids become involved in the kitchen, the more experienced and skilled they will become. Eventually, they may even excel in culinary arts. In the meantime, you and your kids can look forward to sharing happy cooking experiences the whole family can enjoy.