Cooking with Kids: How to Help Your Children Succeed in the Kitchen --- and in Life
Getting children cooking early and safely will serve them well down the road when they start cooking for themselves, either putting together their own lunches for school or cooking in their college dorm room. Knowing how to choose and prepare a healthy snack is just as important for survival in “the real world” as knowing how to do the laundry. Maybe more important, depending on how far from home they are.
Your kids will benefit from being involved in food preparation in a variety of ways.
- Spending time with a parent can boost self-esteem. Kids benefit from the extra time spent with them in the kitchen, whether it’s special attention during meal prep or a quiet talk while doing the dishes afterward. Sometimes you have the best talks when you’re doing something else at the same time. Studies show that quality of time spent with children is more important for their development than the quantity of time you spend together.
- Kids learn food safety in the kitchen. Virtually unbreakable, Duralex kitchen and dinnerware will give you peace of mind as little hands learn to whip and fold; these tempered-glass dishes have been held (and dropped) by children since 1939. While kids are learning to cut, grate, and peel, consider using a cut resistant glove to protect fingers as they gain confidence. They also can learn about cross-contamination when using anti-cross-contamination cutting boards.
- Reading and following a recipe reinforces math skills, measuring skills and pouring skills as well as following directions. My mother always said, “If you can read, you can cook!” We say, if you can listen, you can cook as a team. Only one of you has to be able to read. Find a kid-friendly cookbook and get started.
Good habits start early.
- Plan your parent/child meal prep when you have plenty of time. Rushing through a recipe will only cause frustration for you and your child. This may not be the best time to try an elaborate dinner for the in-laws and certainly won’t help if you have to get out the door to baseball practice in an hour.
- Involve your child in meal planning so you have his or her buy-in; although kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve had a hand in their preparation, letting them help you choose the meal is important, too. See our selection of cookbooks for kids below.
- Have all of the ingredients and equipment handy. Plan ahead so that you don’t need to run back to the store, and your recipe will work as it’s supposed to. No one needs to get halfway through a batch of pancakes and realize that baking powder and baking soda are very different ingredients.
- When cooking with younger children it is essential to have everything prepped ahead of time. Remember, their attention spans are short! Try simple, quick and straightforward recipes for younger children. You can always add one short lesson on cutting, peeling, stirring, measuring and/or pouring each time you cook together.
Have a sense of humor:
- Just as you want to be sure you teach your kids food and kitchen safety while cooking, keep in mind that just as much fun can be had while cooking. Whether you’re a “clean as you go” type or you like to use every utensil possible and wash up at the end, your child will take your technique as an example. Act accordingly; prepare plenty of soap bubbles in advance and make cleaning fun.
- Not everything you cook together will be a success.
- Your child’s reaction will mirror yours; keep a positive attitude and always be enthusiastic about trying again.
Distinctive-Decor.com offers several cookbooks and tools for kids who want to cook.
Someone’s in the Kitchen with Mommy, by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, offers 100 fun recipes that not only look and taste delicious but are healthy as well. A great starting point that offers basics coupled with crafts and planning tips.
Kids Cook 1-2-3, by Rozanne Gold, outlines 125 easy-to-follow recipes for kids that only have three ingredients. As skills develop, kids can expand beyond the basics to adapt recipes and increase the difficulty. Organized into chapters by mealtime, some recipes will still require adult supervision.
The Science Chef: 100 Fun Food Experiments and Recipes for Kids, by Joan D’Amico and Karen E. Drummond, is just what it sounds like: each chapter opens with a science experiment, followed by several recipes that reinforce the lesson in the kitchen. Information, experiments, and recipes range in skill level, so parents will need to offer assistance.
While you’re on the site, check out our selection of cooking tools for kids, including fun designs by Silpin and Head Chef.