Getting Your Kids in the Kitchen
Cooking alone can be therapeutic, but sometimes it just feels lonely. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your kids would get in the kitchen with you? By starting now and training them well, there may come a day when they can actually feed themselves. Or better yet, feed the whole family.
What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking? Kids love to have fun, love to play games, and love to organize things. Your best bet for success will be a program that takes these traits into consideration. By working with their natural inclinations, instead of against them, you’ll all have more fun.
Try these ideas to engage your youngsters and help them enjoy cooking as much as you do.
1. Allow Kids to Make Choices
Children love to feel like they have a little bit of control in their lives. So often, parents make all of the choices, but by letting little ones choose what to eat, they feel empowered. Limit the options to two or three, and make sure they are healthy. Once your child has decided, let him or her help you prepare the food. Spreading butter, putting fruit on a plate, and setting the table are all realistic jobs for young kids.
2. Sink Time
From toddlerhood through the preschool years, kiddos love to play in the kitchen sink. Warm water, bubbles, and plastic dishes are perfect for keeping little ones entertained while you are at the stove. Set a sturdy stool in front of the sink, fill it a few inches deep, and let your children wash unbreakable dishes while waiting for dinner to be done. They’ll love the feeling of responsibility, and you’ll love the freedom to cook.
3. Mix it Up
Stirring and mixing are fun actions for kids of all ages. Whether you need a salad tossed or a batter stirred, give your young helpers a set of spoons and let them go for it. Take a moment to show them the right way to do it, without making a mess, so that precious ingredients don’t go to waste. Once they graduate from simple stirring, show them how to whip up a batch of salad dressing using eggless mayo from hamptoncreek. Once they’ve mastered that, let them make a cake from a mix.
4. Chopping is for Big Kids
If your children are older and are trustworthy, show them how to safely use knives in the kitchen. Start with soft food, such as bananas, that can be cut with a butter knife. Move on to slicing an avocado with a paring knife, then show them how to chop hard foods such as carrots. By teaching good knife skills to responsible teens, you can be assured they will enjoy helping you make dinner regularly. However, if you or your teen ever feel unsure about using knives, shelve the idea for a year or so.
5. Flying Solo
Eventually, a child who has been trained in the kitchen will want to make a meal alone. Start simply, by allowing pre-teens to open a can of soup or bake a potato in the microwave. Later, show them how to boil water and cook pasta. Making a grilled cheese sandwich can be a thrill, plus it’s delicious to eat. Eventually, show your teenager how to make a full dinner for the family. Teach them what seasonings go together, how to choose side dishes, and how to make an attractive presentation on the table. Boys and girls can both benefit from knowing how to feed themselves and others.
6. Cleanup Time
Every good cook needs to know how to clean up a mess. Better yet, teach them to cook without making a mess at all. If the kitchen stays clean while the food is cooking, all they need to do after eating is put their dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the countertops. Older children can be shown how to fill the dishwasher, and younger kids can learn how to empty it. Have a broom and dustpan handy for sweeping up crumbs, and teach your kids how to use them.
The benefits of getting your kids in the kitchen range from having company while cooking, to having help while preparing a meal, to having teens who can meet their own needs and those of others. Teaching kids how to cook and clean up may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but the quality time spent together and the yummy food you share will make it all worthwhile.