Guest post from Dianna Scofield
My oldest child is six. That gives me twelve more years before he leaves home. Will he be ready? Will he know how to take care of himself?
Kids make a mess in the kitchen. They come up with strange concoctions. They waste food through mistakes and spillage.
Regardless of the inconvenience, I want my kids in the kitchen. I want them to be capable of getting things for themselves. I want them to learn independence. I want them to feel the fulfillment that comes from serving and eating food they made themselves. I want them to be able to read through a recipe and feel confident they can make it. I want them to leave home when they are grown and have options beyond fast food and ramen noodles.
Teaching kids to cook doesn’t have to be a chore. I love having my kids’ company in the kitchen. When they help cook, they are more willing to eat what we’re serving.
Ten Tips For Cooking With Kids:
1. Let your kids look through cookbooks. My children love looking through kids’ cookbooks such as Alpha-Bakery and Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls. They also enjoy looking through my cookbooks, especially those with attractive photographs.
2. Let your kids help in the kitchen. It may slow you down, but letting your kids dump ingredients into the bowl, stir, and fetch things will help them get a good feel for what happens in the kitchen. At mealtime, be sure to mention who helped!
3. Let your kids get their own snacks. My son enjoys making pepperoni-and-cheese sandwiches and “cookies” made from crackers, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. He always eats his creations.
4. Let your kids help plan menus. Kids love choosing what’s for dinner. I make a point of asking my family what they want for dinner when I draw up a new menu. You can take this farther, though; older children who know a bit about nutrition and food groups can come up with a complete dinner menu.
5. Have the same meal once each week. When I was growing up, my family had spaghetti every Sunday. We helped, and by the time we were teens we were fairly competent spaghetti chefs. So if there’s a meal everyone in your family loves, consider having it more regularly and letting your children help in the preparation.
6. Let your kids make treats. Kids love treats, and it’s only natural that they might be more interested in making brownies than asparagus. Let them make sweets—you can cook the asparagus.
7. Use mixes. Super-healthy eaters these days shun mixes, but it’s hard to deny that they make cooking easier. Making a cake from a mix is something most kids can handle, but making a cake from scratch might be trickier. If you don’t do mixes, you can find recipes for mixes by doing a quick internet search. You might also consider making mixes from your own tried-and-true recipes. Use a simple recipe such as muffins or pancakes. Combine the dry ingredients in a jar or plastic bag, then label it with the ingredients to be added and the cooking instructions.
8. Garnish. Presentation is important! Kids love visual appeal, so letting them decorate the food with sprinkles, paprika, or chopped vegetable “confetti” will make cooking (and eating) more exciting for them.
9. Let small children “cook” alongside you. My three-year-old loves to “cook” with her play kitchen while I cook in my big one. She also enjoys sitting on the kitchen counter with a lump of play dough and a table knife while I’m preparing meals.
10. Let your kids help prepare recipes they don’t like. My son hates to eat cucumbers, but he loves to chop them. I’ve noticed that he’s more likely to try them at dinner if he’s helped prepare them beforehand.
Looking for more ideas? On my blog, I’ve shared a huge list of links to easy-to-make recipes from a children’s magazine. I also have ideas for five days of kid food, featuring recipes that are fun to prepare together. Last but not least, my Kid Food board on Pinterest is packed with recipes with kid appeal.
How do you include your children in the kitchen?
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