Cooking with small children. It used to give me a shudder up my spine. The mess. The arguments. The chaos. But I remember wearing matching gingham aprons with my grandma as we made homemade noodles, baked cakes, and chopped salads. She invited me into cooking as a small child and I cherish the memories of our time together in the kitchen.
Girded with my memories, I wanted to share my love for cooking with the children in my family in the same way. Here are 5 ways I've made cooking with small children an enjoyable experience, and not simply something I endure.
1. Get in the right frame of mind
Before I could enjoy cooking with little ones, I had to change the way I viewed the process. I listed out why it mattered to me to cook with my favorite little people. The memories I cherish, I decided, were worth the mess and arguments. When I went into cooking with the kids as an invitation to enter into an activity with me, it changed the experience for us both. It became an opportunity instead of a headache.
2. Designate a day
But let’s face it, some days you just don’t have the time to deal with the extra clean up cooking with children takes. Look at your week and choose a day where your family doesn’t have to be out the door at a certain time and designate it as the day the kids participate in cooking the meal and mix it up between breakfast, lunch and dinner!
3. Keep it age appropriate
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is doling out jobs that are age appropriate. Even the smallest of toddlers wants to be a helper! Here are a few examples
- 18-24 months – they can place fish sticks or chicken nuggets on the sheet; with assistance stir mixes; toss veggies in oil and salt you have placed in a Ziploc baggie.
- 2-5 years – they can pour pre-measured items; stir mixes; crack eggs; drop or roll out cookies; help garnish or decorate.
- 5 years and beyond – read the recipe; measure and pour items; set the oven and timer; stir mixes; crack eggs.
4. Teach them how to help
Cooking and baking is an amazing opportunity to create memories and teach your children valuable lessons. Be the teacher (even if you don’t think you are the greatest cook or baker), your children can and will learn so much through cooking with you. A few common lessons include:
- Washing hands – before cooking make it a standard practice for everyone to wash their hands.
- Safety – safety in the kitchen is enormously important. Children can learn to wash hands after handling meats or eggs; how to handle the oven; how to handle hot pots and pans. Instruct as you go and don’t be afraid to show a child first. Gauge your child’s ability on safety issues and move forward based on your individual child!
- Math – Cooking and baking are fun ways to teach children math, especially fractions!
- Confidence – cooking with your children is a great way to boost their skills and confidence.
5. Clean-up together
When we cook and bake, inevitably there is clean-up. Have your children assist with the clean-up to their age appropriate level. It is an important way to teach responsibility and teamwork to your children.
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