Cooking with your child is one of the best ways to spend quality time together whilst teaching them important life skills. If done right it can be fun for both kids and parents and we highly recommend making it a regular activity.
Top Tips for Cooking with Children
Here are our top tips to avoiding any kitchen disasters and having fun in the kitchen with the little ones.
Children under 3 are usually too young to get ‘hands on’ in the kitchen but that doesn’t mean you can’t start early. As soon as your child is old enough to sit in a high chair you can let them join in. Give them play spoons, pots and toy food and let them copy what you’re doing.
The kitchen can be a stressful place and then you through a boisterous toddler into the mix with heat and sharp knives. It can be a disaster waiting to happen and can lead the stress on your behalf. We recommend starting small and simple with baking or easy meals. Do it at a time when you don’t need to rush and can make lots of mess. It’s important for children to learn to clean up after cooking too.
Introduce New Foods
When a child prepares food themselves they are more invested in the meal. This is the perfect time to introduce a new food. Talk to them about the food including the shapes, colour, and texture and where it comes from. They are much more likely to try it at a mealtime. You can then teach them different ways to cook it.
Let Them Help
If you or your kid is not keen to be full on in the kitchen then ask them to be your helper. Simple tasks such as gathering equipment or pouring ingredients gives them a sense of purpose in the kitchen. This way they can be slowly introduced into the effort need to prepare meals.
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The kitchen is a practical learning lab for kids. You can reinforce skills they learn at nursery or school in the kitchen which is fantastic kids who are visual or hands on learners.
From a young age reinforce word related to food, cooking and the kitchen. Kitchen tools are fantastic for this. Once they learn one and can easily recognise it, introduce another. This is also a great way to introduce a second language to your baby.
Numbers are used all the time in the kitchen. From basic ingredient counting (how many eggs?) to adding and subtracting. Cooking enables you to give kids a real life example of using weights, time, measurements and percentages.
If you have a recipe to follow then your kid can read each steps aloud. This gives them an opportunity to demonstrate they understand the sentence and put it into action. Reading recipes can help them follow sequences and directions in order.
Let you kid explore their five senses when cooking. Ask them to fell, smell and taste the foods they are working with. Let them listen for ques such as a timer’s bell or a boiling kettle. Even a disaster can turn into a lesson such as smelling and visualising burnt foods. This will help improve their vocabulary and literacy skills.
Your kids will love to get hands on with the food. Let them knead, pour, fill and snap with their hands or using utensils. As they get older let them graduate to working with things which require safety skills such as knives or hot water.
Cause and Effect
Let you kid be creative in the kitchen and teach them about the different outcomes if you don’t follow recipe. This teaches them that the actions they choose have consequences. Also a great lesson if they make too much mess and need to clean up the mess afterwards!
We’ve already discussed that the kitchen can be fun, but we also know it has a lot of dangers for children. Rather than avoid the kitchen it’s a great way to teach them safety skills and how to avoid being hurt.
- Lock cupboards – If you have cupboard with cleaning equipment or sharp tools, keep these out of reach of your children. If they are still too young, remember to enforce that only you can open cupboards.
- Supervision – Start to give your child some responsibility as they grow, but always supervise them first. This mostly applies to the use of knives, heat and electric appliances.
- Food Safety – Teach your kids basic hand hygiene and remember to let them know that not all foods are safe to eat when raw. Any food which can spread bacteria such as eggs or raw meat should be handled by parents. Also never let you child cook if they are ill.
- Clean Up – It’s important to clean up any spilt food or liquids, especially if its on the floor, as they can become a slipping hazards.
How to Cook with Your Kids
You don’t need to rigidly stick to a game plan when cooking with your kids. Let it be as spontaneous as possible or tensions will run high. There are a few basic you’ll want to keep in place and then the fun part is up to you and your little one.
1. Set Up
Your kitchen is designed for adult’s, not small children. You may want to use other areas such as the dining table as worktops so they are easy accessible by you kids. Modular high chairs are great for providing height, or consider a kids kitchen stand to safely boost them to worktop height.
2. Choose a Recipe
Start as you mean to go on and select a few recipes you’re comfortable with making. Get your little one involved by letting them select one of three options, to give them a sense of control. Gift your kid with their own recipe books or try Pinterest for lots of free recipe inspiration.
3. Read it
If you’re using a recipe book, print out or reading from a tablet device, ask your little one to search it out. If they are old enough let them read the recipe though and follow the instructions. Having a rough idea of what you need to do will save you all stress and help with the next two steps.
4. Delegate Tasks
Whether it’s only the two of you cooking or a few more, give everyone a task to do through the recipe. Try not to have too many children cooking at once, or it can lead to accidents and a disastrous recipe outcome. If you have a few kids try to alternate who gets to be the head chef and who are the helpers each time.
Make sure you have all the equipment and ingredients available for the recipe. Discuss what you need with your child and let them find the items in the kitchen.
6. Wash Hands
Always remember to wash hands thoroughly before and after cooking as basic food safety to prevent any bugs being passed around. Also cover up any open wounds with waterproof plasters.