One of the best things you can do for your children is to have them help you in the kitchen. Some people say that the car is the best place for deep meaningful conversations, but I have found this to be true of working side by side with my children cooking. Recent studies have shown that children who eat meals with their family every night are significantly less likely to abuse drugs. Having your children help you in the kitchen is an extension of meal time.
I have seven children who range in age from teenagers down to preschoolers. Even the youngest ones can help in the kitchen and feel like they are part of the meal preparation.
My three year old loves to stir the bowl. So while an older child might be the one doing the actual measuring of ingredients, a three year old child can stir them together in the bowl. This does mean that there are times we are stirring things together into a bowl that could have just been dumped one by one into the pot.
It is important to remember that it might be messier with them helping. It might take longer. It might not be exactly perfect. And don’t forget to bring an extra heaping of patience to the kitchen with you. Keep in mind that the process is what is important. Just because as parents we can do something better, quicker, or more efficiently without our children, doesn’t mean that we always should. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish.
My teenagers can cook real meals. They know their way around the kitchen and can easily read a recipe and make it completely on their own. We can talk about difficult topics because they don’t feel like they have to make eye contact, which is why many people have difficult conversations in the car.
My teenagers know many easy go-to recipes that will hopefully keep them alive in college and those years afterward when they are more interested in spending their disposable income on other things. But I am trying not to think about that now.
Here are my top five tips for cooking with kids:
1) Give them age appropriate tasks. A three year old should not be at the stove cooking. Likewise a teenager can do more than clean lettuce.
2) Show them how to properly use all the utensils and small appliances.
3) Teach them to read and follow recipes, including the definitions of cooking terms.
4) Equip them with the tools they need to be successful, such as non-slip step stools, aprons, easy to read measuring cups.
5) Most of all, make it fun. Lavish them with praise. Eat their creations with gusto.
Let’s not forget the most important thing about having kids who can cook independently, you don’t have to. Start cooking with your toddlers now, and before you know it you will be asking if they need your help in the kitchen.