Involving kids in anything kitchen related can be a test of your patience and flexibility. The mess, the spills, the seemingly constant stream of directions you need to give, and misunderstood directions can make cooking with kids a nightmare. I think we’ve all had at least one of these experiences for you to know exactly what I’m talking about! The five ideas below will help set you and your family up for fun and success in the kitchen.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan!
My kids often ask to help cook right in the middle of making dinner, as something is boiling over or when I realize I forgot to preheat the oven. As a result, 99% of the time my answer is “not right now, but *maybe* next time.” Then, next time I’m cooking it is the same situation and I give the same answer. I realized one day, probably soon, they will stop asking to help me and I will have missed the chance to teach them some helpful life skills while I had their interest. When you’re writing your grocery list or weekly menu, plan for a weekday meal or a weekend morning that you could create a few flexible minutes and then invite the kids in the kitchen.
2. Write it Out
This will look different for everyone, depending on what level of reading your children are at. If your child isn’t reading yet or is an emerging reader, think about drawing pictures (simple stick figures work!) to correlate with the cooking directions that you will read. If you’re feeling adventurous, a dry erase marker on the front of the fridge can be fun! If your child has recently begun reading, you could simplify the directions into a list or onto note cards. For the seasoned readers in your life, recalling steps of a recipe is a great way to practice comprehension and strengthening their memory skills.
3. Teach the W’s of the Kitchen
Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Teach your kids about the equipment they will be using while cooking. Who uses it (adults only vs. safe for kids), what it is called, when it is used, where it is stored, and why it is useful. This feels like a daunting task, but so often I am reminded that I have to teach the details. Also, you will be paid back in dividends when you can just say “get the measuring cup” instead of having to say “get the measuring cup. No, that’s just a really big spoon. Look in the top drawer. Yes, that drawer, look next to the forks. The white things with numbers that stack together…!” Just trust me on this one!
4. Double Duty
Make this cooking activity work for you! Do you have a party coming up? A gift to make? A snack to put in lunchboxes? Time is limited in our busy schedules. Use this time you planned with the kids in the kitchen to make something that will help you out later. Also, kids are more likely to eat something new if they were part of making it. A perfect opportunity to add some vegetables into those muffins! One of our family favorites is to make playdough on the weekend and then I can put that on the table with some cookie cutters when I need a few minutes to get things done during the week.
5. Find a Favorite
There is an overwhelming number of websites, social media accounts and books out there with recipes for families. Sometimes, it feels like way too many options and I get lost in the picking part of the process. Find a few resources you enjoy and that line up with your family philosophy on child nutrition and have an easy-to-read website, then subscribe to the newsletter. This is my number one way of finding new things to make in the kitchen. Once a week, it’s delivered into my inbox with no searching needed and no more getting sucked into the time warp that is Pinterest!
Most importantly, have fun! Have a favorite kids in the kitchen cooking experience, routine, or recipe? Please share them in the comments below!