Are you ready to make memories in the kitchen with your kiddos? If you answered yes to this question, keep reading. Are you ready to get messy? If you answered no to this question, stop reading now. Completely kidding, but seriously, cooking with your children can be (and most likely will be) a little messy. However, I truly believe that memories can be made in the kitchen and those memories can be ones that will be cherished by you and your children. Here are three tips that can make cooking with your children fun and enjoyable.
Step 1: Find a safe space to work
I know, I know, this seems like a duh moment but I really cannot stress this enough. Sometimes it’s hard to find an open space that is safe enough for your children to help in the kitchen. We like to do our work either at our dining room table or at the corner counter in our kitchen, where I can stand between my kiddos and the oven. My children have to use chairs to reach the counter so we have special rules. And rules are so important. Number one is to not touch anything without permission. Number two is absolutely no climbing on the counters. Breaking any of these rules results in being banished from the kitchen during this time. Banish them once and you won’t have to ever again, trust me.
To sum it up, keep children away from hot appliances (toaster, oven, stove top, etc..) Make sure that sharp objects (knives, forks, can opener) are well out of reach and make sure to talk with your children about not touching these items. Be aware of heights, such as letting your children climb and sit on the counter-tops. We use chairs and barricade the little ones in using the counters and myself. And don’t forget to set some ground rules for safety. Most importantly, enforce those rules!
Step 2: Engage your children
Now that you have found a safe place, you will need to engage your children. This will look different for every parent because our children are unique and have different personalities. You know your child best, but here are some suggestions and examples of what we do in my home.
Let them read the recipe or read it to them. Our children are 4 and 2, so I read the ingredient list and they can get everything I need from the pantry. One of their favorite parts is compiling what we will need to create our masterpiece. Next, I grab measuring cups and we go over amounts and I (try) to teach them all about measurements. I let them do the scooping of dry ingredients, but for wet ingredients I will have them hold the measuring cup over the bowl while I pour (just be prepared for them to drop it right into the bowl). Sometimes I will add some extra stability to try and avoid too much of a mess. Taking turns is a must in our house and we usually don’t have any problem. I try to give everyone a turn, so if a recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, I may pull out the 1/2 cup measuring cup and let them both get a turn. This has saved many, many hours of whining about unfairness.
I usually mix what needs to be mixed and then let them have a turn as well- this is where it can really get messy. Encourage your child to mix slow and easy. Hold their hand to teach them, then let go and let them do it alone. Children love to do what you do and they love to feel independent.
Step 3: Set a timer and put your child/children in charge of it.
So, I never use a timer when I cook alone. It drives my husband crazy because he is a big believer in using a timer. Different strokes for different folks. However, I have learned that my kiddos love using a timer. Once our masterpiece is in the oven, my kiddos are constantly asking when it will be done. They are so excited to see our creation become something resembling delicious, edible food. It drove me crazy trying to keep them occupied during this time. So, I started using a timer. I set the timer on our microwave and tell them that it is their responsibility to let me know when it goes off. Our 4 year does great with this because he is starting to grasp numbers. He can check it every so often then go back to playing without needing to ask me if it’s done. This keeps them engaged and let’s them feel indepenent. There are times I have to draw attention to the timer beeping but for the most part this tip has worked wonders in our home.
When all is finished, I usually ask them to “remind” me of all the ingredients we used and you’ll be surprised by how much they remember! They love recalling all of the individual parts that went into creating their food. Encourage them to share the recipe with other family members and friends. You’ll feel proud and so will your kiddos.
These are just a few little tips for making cooking with your child/children a fun and easy experience. One of our favorite recipes are fluffy mickey mouse pancakes! I know I’ll be sharing many recipes in the future. Go grab your little ones and make some memories in the kitchen!
Do you cook with your children? What are your favorite recipes to make with them?