Cooking for our kids sometimes feels like a chore, but it can become much more enjoyable when our kiddos join us in the kitchen (I’m worried I might have lost some of you already but stick with me!) Cooking can be a time for family bonding, education, and developing self-confidence and important lifelong skills. Time in the kitchen also provides children with the opportunity to see, touch, and smell new foods before they think about taking the next big step to eating them!
Before you step into the kitchen, make sure you have a plan for what you’re cooking and how your kids can help. Also, check in with yourself to make sure you have the mental bandwidth to supervise and mentor your children in a positive way. If not, you can always try it another day. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start with an easy recipe that has something everyone can do (see below for my favorite family recipe)
2. All ages can help, but adult supervision is required at all times!
- 2-3 years old: help to gather ingredients and equipment; mix ingredients; use cookie cutters to cut bread or dough.
- 4-5 years old: wash and prepare produce; use special equipment like a vegetable peeler, crinkle cutter, or potato masher; whisk eggs.
- 6-7 years old: grate cheese; use a hand mixer; crack eggs.
- 8-9 years old: plan meals; use the microwave; temp meats.
- 10+ years old: use a knife properly; cook foods on the stovetop or in the oven; follow a recipe or try their own.
3. Reinforce food safety at all ages including hand washing, eliminating cross contact, and cooking foods to proper temperatures/doneness.
4. Recruit help from a grandparent, a favorite aunt or uncle, or a family friend. Bring them into the kitchen to join in the fun!
5. Reinforce math skills like fractions by using measuring cups and spoons.
6. Talk about the science of cooking. Demonstrate how baking soda and baking powder leaven muffins and quick breads.
7. Eat together too! Family meals are important for both parents and children. They’re shown to improve children’s eating habit and reduce high-risk behaviors.
And finally, here is a great recipe the whole family will love – and hopefully love making together!