11 Ways To Empower Your Kids While Cooking A Meal
We love cooking with our boys and find that it makes cooking more fun for everyone. We turn on our favorite tunes and have kitchen dance parties while we work. Time is precious with kids, and we love spending as much of it with our little peas as we can. It gives us a chance to share stories about our day, plus we get to teach them kitchen skills so someday they can cook on their own...and maybe even for us!
The kitchen is the perfect place for kids to fall in love with and appreciate food. The more you're willing to let them help, the more involved they'll want to be. And when they feel a sense of ownership of the meal, they're more likely to want to eat it. As any parent can tell you, that's a major score! That all adds up to the kitchen being our happy place.
Here are some of our favorite tips for cooking with kids:
1. Let them help pick the recipes, or pick a recipe you know they love.
It will get them excited about what they're about to cook! It also helps to pick age-appropriate recipes, so maybe no fresh pasta on the first try... And it doesn't have to be dinner! Maybe a simple snack is a better place for you to start.
2. Feed them first!
This is the golden rule—don't expect a hungry kid to wait patiently to be done with the recipe. A small snack before cooking (for kids and adults!) is essential.
3. Don't be in a rush.
Expect it to take a little longer to make the recipe, and plan accordingly. Patience is crucial! If they see you get frustrated, they'll get frustrated too and want to give up. The more you practice together, the better they'll get, and the more confidence they'll have. Kids need time to play and learn in the kitchen! Weekends are a great time to cook with kids because you won't feel as rushed.
4. Be ready for a mess.
Cooking is messy, and so are kids—so embrace it. There's nothing you can't clean up later—or better yet, get the kids involved in that too!
5. Dress accordingly.
Make sure you and your kids are wearing clothes that can get splattered and spilled on. It's a great reason to get everyone their own special apron.
6. Make it easy.
Have a step stool, so little ones can comfortably reach the counter, or use the kitchen table as your work area. Look at your recipe beforehand and think about all the ways little hands can help: mixing, whisking, measuring, grabbing ingredients from the fridge or pantry, even taste-testing! Giving kids a job title like chief mixer or head taster makes them feel important—that they play a special role in making the meal.
7. Make it safe.
Before getting started, talk about kitchen safety. If your child is old enough to use a knife (there's no right answer—it's what you feel comfortable with; there are great kid-friendly options available), teach him how to properly hold it. In any case, remove other sharp and any hot objects from reach. And don't forget to wash your hands!
8. Make it interesting.
Read through the recipe, or have older children read the recipe. Discuss the steps and talk about what you'll be doing—and keep it exciting! When you think of it from a child's perspective (or an adult's!), mixing a whole bunch of ingredients together is like a big science experiment! You can also talk about the individual ingredients, where they come from, and what they taste like. Make sure there are plenty of taste tests along the way!
9. Make it fun.
Get kids involved from the very beginning—seeing the process from start to finish is exciting! Let them help pick out the ingredients at the farmers market or store. Then when you get into the kitchen, embrace the spirit of the project—have a good time! We love music in our kitchen, and we also pull out special spoons, bowls, and measuring cups in bright colors that the kids love.
10. Make it teamwork.
If you have more than one child, make sure your kids take turns and work together. We're always telling the boys that we're a team—everyone has a job, and everyone's job is equally important for the meal to come together.
11. Have reasonable expectations.
Your little one might not be ready to help with an entire recipe from start to finish, and some kids have different attention spans. Even if they help a little, that's still enough to make them feel important. Be sure to offer lots of praise and encouragement!
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