Kitchen skills and comfort in kitchens are an essential adult skill. Here are some ways encourage confidence and fun for your kids in the kitchen.
Cooking is a skill that everyone needs to learn at some point, unless you want to eat ramen noodles the rest of your life. Therefore, it’s important to introduce your kids to life in the kitchen at an early age. Not all children show interest at first, and many won’t become culinary artists overnight, but by engaging them early, you’ll get their culinary imaginations fired up and get some free help when preparing dinner, too.
Here are some ways to start this rewarding process for your children and for you, too.
Plan a menu together
Perhaps the best, most productive way of getting your kids in the kitchen is by including their input when it comes to planning a menu. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to eat macaroni and cheese and hot dogs every night. Children are designed to be curious. There are plenty of sources to activate that curiosity when it comes to mealtimes.
Go through your cookbooks, your family recipes, dishes on websites and in magazines, or check things out on the Food Network. There’s bound to be something that will strike everyone’s fancy. Giving your kids’ opinions about food importance and opening up some new options for what they want to help make and to eat is empowering, and educational too. They’ll see the importance of having a well-balanced meal in the most practical way possible as a result.
Some of the greatest and most rewarding dishes are the ones that are the simplest to make. For first timers, these are some of the ones to consider starting with. Soups, stews, salads, and sauces are examples of where to start. As well as being nutritious, these kinds of dishes allow the children to decide what they want to put in the chosen dish according to their taste. Who knows? You may even invent something new.
There’s something about being part of the creation process that engages kids and, at the end, they get to taste the product of their invention. Making things simple, and taking away the silly idea that cooking is just for grown-ups is the key to unlock a whole new level of confidence in children in the kitchen.
Match the job to the kid
Before starting the cooking process, first assess what jobs your children can handle. Obviously, you probably don’t want your six-year-old chopping produce, or shoving their hands in the oven. And you don’t want to give your pre-teen a job they’d consider to be patronizing to them.
Having said that, not every child is the same at any given age. Maybe some six-year olds are totally cool with cutting boards and oven mitts. Cooking is an activity that requires caution, and you should prepare for mishaps. But, cooking should not be fearful for anyone, including for you. As such, think about your child’s strengths, tendencies, and personality. Show confidence in them, and they will be more likely to have confidence in themselves. Great food and great parenting; they do go together!
Vary the division of labor
Once you have an idea of your child’s comfort levels and abilities, it’s time to scope out the tasks. Cooking is an art of details, with many different smaller jobs that go into getting an overall result. To keep the kids involved, make sure the whole experience is varied. Because these little jobs that make up the whole are important, your kids get little payoffs all the way along when you mix it up a little when it comes to assigning them.
Breaking eggs, turning on mixers, messily mixing ingredients by hand (it’s always more fun when there’s mess!), and yes even chopping vegetables while being supervised help to make the whole experience interesting for the hungry minds of kids in the kitchen. Rotate the work so that everyone has a chance to do different jobs. Variety is the spice of life, even when actual spices are involved.
While most of the fun in the kitchen is had during the creation process, remind your kids that their responsibility doesn’t end when the meal is over. Let them know that it’s their responsibility to help clean after the meal, too.
Encourage them to wash dishes, wipe off the kitchen table, or sweep the floor. Not only does it give them a sense of responsibility, it helps the cleaning process go much quicker. And it reminds them that it’s not just your kitchen space, it’s theirs too. This has good implications outside of the kitchen, and gives them a sense that their home belongs to them.
Good for them, good for you
Cooking with your kids is great for so many reasons. It’s good for you, because you get the extra help, and the quality time that every good parent is looking for. It’s good for your children, too, as they gain new skills and new confidence. This isn’t just so that they can be well-adjusted and self-sufficient adults. It’s about loving the art of cooking and sharing that experience with their parents while they’re still a child.