Cooking with kids is one of the best, and easiest, ways to spend time together, but it also provides a great chance to teach them an important skill. After all, from even the earliest ages, children will pretend to cook in their own creative play. Why not engage them in the kitchen and see how much they will not only learn to love food, but how much their creativity will grow?
Cooking with kids helps to keep them excited about food (which is helpful, especially if you have picky eaters); but it also teaches valuable lessons about where food comes from, as well as how to prepare, cook, and serve their favorite things. Best of all, a kitchen-savvy kid will be more independent in the long run. Start with kids when they are young and easy to impress. Get as many recipes as you can, especially based on the food they love. With so many recipes to try, your kids will be curious to learn, and this will keep the cooking more enjoyable.
Cook Simple Meals and Progress
You don’t need to start with tricky baking or complicated recipes. You need to get your kids interested in food first. To get started, engage them in simple tasks such as picking herbs, mixing ingredients, measuring, spinning salad leaves dry, and helping you prepare ingredients. Over time, you can involve them in more complex tasks. You must keep them wanting to be involved. The more they cook, the better they become at following recipes.
Make Time to Cook
Today, people tend to have hectic schedules, parents and kids alike. However, you need to make time for cooking with kids. If weeknights are too busy, try to set aside time on the weekends. Do your shopping and simple prep tasks on a weekday and on the weekend, try to create enough time to prepare meals for the coming week. Cooking together on weekends is great for families that do batch cooking. Kids will know that they contributed to the meals throughout the week. And again, fussy eaters will enjoy eating meals they helped prepare.
Learn a Hands-On Attitude…and a few Precautions
Your kids need to learn to smell and taste the food items they are making and the ingredients they are using. As kids garner more knowledge of food from you, they become better at handling food. Explain to them that they do not have to love all the ingredients or all the food they make, but that they can enjoy the process all the same – and create incredible meals that others will love. If you lead by example, kids will want to follow and do what you are doing.
Even though you’ll want to give kids some freedom when choosing what to make, you need to ensure they are safe around the kitchen. Here are some basic safety rules to follow anytime you’re cooking with kids:
- Avoid deep frying unless you are there with them supervising every step
- Teach your kids to keep everything in the kitchen clean and to wipe all water off the floor
- Teach them about fires in the kitchen and how to avoid them
- Emphasize the danger of knives and other sharp tools and equipment and teach them safe ways to handle these items
These are simple rules, but you need to emphasize them to your kids every time before you start cooking as they will ensure your kids’ safety – and your own.
10 Easy Ideas for Cooking with Kids
For older kids, here are some great things to try….
1. Macaroni and Cheese: Kids across love macaroni and cheese and will enjoy making this meal. Search for several different homemade mac n’ cheese recipes and try several out until you find a family favorite.
2. Grilled meat: Cooking with kids doesn’t have to be limited to the kitchen. Try engaging your kids in grilling one weekend with your supervision to prevent accidents or burns. If weather is preventative, try a small portable grill to use indoors, grilling gloves, grilling brush, and grilling basket. Kids will love it and learn a useful skill in the process.
3. Tortilla pizza: Instead of buying pizza, you can teach kids how to make “thin crust pizza” using tortillas as a base. Help them select a variety of toppings and try out different flavor combinations along the way. Then all you need is a few minutes in the over, and you are good to go.
4. Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies: If your kids love chocolate chip cookies, teach them the value of adding something healthy to a classic favorite. You can also try other ideas like oatmeal raisin cookies or even oatmeal chocolate chip.
5. Chicken Pot Pie: Search for recipes online and use a store bought pie crust to keep the process simple. This is a great meal to make ahead of time and heat up on a busy night.
6. Cakes and Other Baked Foods: Cakes are a great way to teach kids about measuring ingredients and following recipes. Try different flavors and decorate them together. Or add some simple baked items like muffins or breakfast breads into you repertoire. Especially with the holidays coming up, these items will be great to have on hand if you have family visiting and your kids will love getting to take credit for their creation!
And here are some ideas to get even the youngest chefs interested in cooking…
7. Peanut Butter-Jelly Sandwiches: This childhood classic is a great place to start with young kids. Teach them how to spread the right amount of peanut butter and jelly (or other favorite topping) on the bread and next time they’re hungry, they’ll know how to do it themselves. You can also try different sandwich combinations as they become more confident.
8. Tuna Melts: Do you need to make a quick lunch? Tuna melts are simple – you only need to make a tuna salad and throw in a piece of cheese then bake the sandwich for about 10 minutes. This is a simple project for you to do with younger kids and a good way to introduce safety rules around the oven.
9. Mixing Cereals: For the youngest chefs, this is the perfect stepping stone to cooking. You can teach little ones about flavors, mixing, and tasting with this simple task. All you need is a few types of cereal, a bowl, and some creativity!
10. Soups and Salads: Soups are a great way to get started at the stove or learn the basics of the microwave. You can teach young kids to heat canned soups while teaching them basic safety rules about the stove or how to work the microwave – and eventually, you can start making homemade soups together. Salads are another easy, healthy item for young kids to make. Until they are old enough to use knives (with supervision, of course), prep the veggies ahead of time, but let them put the salad together.
Why Teach Your Kids to Cook?
Let’s face it, you will not always be home or available when your kids want a hot, yummy plate of food – so why not teach them to make it themselves? Plus, you’ll love the freedom that comes with your little ones learning to get their own bowls of cereal or heat up simple items in the microwave. And even better, once your kids are off to college, you’ll love knowing that they have the skills to make hearty meals in their own kitchens. Simply put, teaching your kids to cook will set them up for the future.
Cooking with kids is a also time for you to bond, tell stories, and have fun together. Better yet, cooking with kids is great way to shun fussy eating. But most importantly, every skill your child learns, especially before their teenage years, hones their creativity and helps them see the world differently. When kids know they have contributed to the meals, they will be proud of themselves, which fosters self-esteem and confidence for kids of all ages.