Surviving cooking with kids
Though many parents want to cook with their children, cooking with kids can all too often turn out like an expectation vs. reality meme. But teaching kids how to cook and the valuable time spent together that it entails isn’t something we should give up on easily. Here are some benefits of making it work and how to make the endeavor not only manageable but enjoyable.
The joys of cooking with children
Cooking with our children is, at the most basic level, time spent one-on-one (or one-on-two, or whatever the case may be) together. Undistracted, focused time doing something together. This kind of quality time surely strengthens the parent-child bond.
The fact that this bond is created around cooking isn’t incidental. Much like the love of reading forged at an early age through a child reading bedtime stories on her parents’ laps, associating positive feelings of togetherness and love with the kitchen and cooking can instill a life-long love of cooking. This, in turn, confers the lasting health benefits of home cooking meals, a habit which can span generations.
Even short-term, cooking together can impact kids’ food choices. Often, when children are involved in food preparation, they are much more likely to branch out and eat things they wouldn’t touch if they were merely placed in front of them.
Cooking together also offers learning opportunities such as reading and following directions, practicing math and accuracy, learning to clean as you go, and cooking techniques.
Preparing to cook with children
A pleasant parent-child cooking session begins before the child is actually helping. Try to choose a kid-friendly, age-appropriate recipe, one that has a few simple steps and easy techniques. If you have more than one child, consider cooking with one child at a time to avoid the children fighting over whose turn it is to do what.
Next, get all the ingredients out so you don’t have to do it while cooking is going on. You can involve your helper in this step. The key is to avoid searching for ingredients while there’s a child near a hot stove or hanging out with a bowl of flour and spoon that’s way too tempting not to play with.
Finally, do prep work that isn’t appropriate for your child to help with, like grating lemon zest with a micro-plane grater or mincing ginger. Put these prepped ingredients in a small bowl in a quasi mise-en-place setup so that your child can be involved start-to-finish as you’re assembling your dish.
Keeping cooking time fun for everyone
Having a good amount of the prep work done ahead of time cuts down on cooking-time stress and also keeps the shared cooking time from dragging out past the point of pleasantness. In addition, you and your child will be able to focus on the tasks that are fun and safe for kids, such as pouring, stirring, kneading, and pushing the buttons on the mixer or food processor.
Another key ingredient to a successful kid cooking session is consciously maintaining a good attitude. It’s a safe bet that not everything will go perfectly, but letting go of the things that really don’t matter and choosing to laugh over the spills and linger over the dish-washing bubbles makes for happy memories for all.
Forethought and even just a little bit of deliberate preparation can turn cooking with kids from a nice thought into an activity that you’ll be glad to repeat regularly.
About the author:
Shifrah lives in Tallahassee, FL with her husband, four children, two cats, and dog. In the midst of mothering and writing, she enjoys reading, lifestyle photography, sewing, going to the beach, and documenting it all in pocket scrapbooks. She drinks her coffee black.