This may be a bit redundant but the best way to have fun in the kitchen with kids is to make it fun! Make it appealing to them while still teaching kitchen safety and still of course clean up and you will have kids that are comfortable and enjoy being in the kitchen for the rest of their life. You can even enjoy children as young as toddlers in the kitchen and teach them valuable lessons as well. Each child learns and acquires skills at different ages so you will just need to observe your child and decide what types of tasks are appropriate to your child.
The benefits of letting your child cook with you in the kitchen can’t be measured and they are plentiful!
They build an appreciation for work and all that you do.
They learn valuable life skills- menu planning, food prep, cleaning,etc..
They are willing to try a wider variety of foods if they help prepare.
You and your child will build irreplaceable memories.
Their help will eventually be invaluable to you.
They learn to follow directions.
Start with safety- This is of the utmost importance and should be the first thing you talk about as well as reiterate whenever you are in the kitchen with your little one. Most of these rules are of course common sense- don’t touch the stove, no climbing on counters, even special kid knives should only be used with mom’s supervision, etc.. Safety will also include showing your child to use a sturdy step stool or even cooking tower meant for kids instead of a wobbly stool or kitchen chair to reach counters. Be sure to teach them to wash hands before, during, and after handling food. Older children can be taught about food storage safety and temps and knife safety.
Kid Sized Tools
Give them some special tools that are sized just for their little hands. That is not to say they cannot be successful with your whisks and wooden spoons but some items will be much easier to handle and therefore give the kids some confidence as well as ownership in the kitchen. I really love these Curious Chef products- the kids are super excited to have their own tools and it makes them more successful in what they attempt because it is tailor made for little hands. My favorite must have items are the knives, this fruit and veggie prep kit, and their measuring cups and spoons. We have a special basket in the kitchen dedicated to holding their pint sized tools. A fun apron is good too for protecting their clothes and helping them get into the roll a little more. I have a little girl who loves to help in the kitchen so I am sharing a frilly pink apron that she would love but that does not mean boys can’t get in on the fun too!
First let them begin helping you by measuring out oatmeal, shaking out salt and , pouring water into the cold pot, stirring pancake batter,mash up bananas, and other similar tasks. Build up their confidence gradually with small simple tasks then add on recipes and other work later on. Preparing simple snacks is a great starting point.
Some of my favorite simple tasks to start with are:
Spreading peanut butter
As their skills improve move on to things like:
Cracking an egg
When your child has mastered simple kitchen tasks move on to simple recipes as you build their kitchen savvy. From there you can add increasingly more difficult recipes into their skill set. Start off with easy recipes like these, letting them do the prep while you do anything with the hot oven until they are ready at maybe the pre-teen age.
Make cake from a box
Simple muffin recipes
French bread pizzas
Teach Clean Up
My least favorite part so I can sympathize with the kids that don’t relish this part of being in the kitchen, but it is a necessary task so try to make it fun. Most kids will love to “play” in a sink full of soapy fragrant water and hey if the dishes happen to get washed even better. Spraying the counters is another fun thing for kids to do,even if they do tend to go overboard, my little one loves to squirt and wipe off crumbs and spills. Make a game of sweeping up the floor, wiping off appliances and putting away ingredients as you go.
If you have older children I suggest letting them be a part and sometimes take the lead with meal planning and grocery shopping as well. This is a great opportunity to teach healthy choices, budgeting, and planning -all very important real life skills your child will need.
So to round it out here are some important things to keep in mind when you have your kids in the kitchen with you.
Make safety in the kitchen top priority!
Don’t try to teach them when you are in a hurry in the kitchen, you will need extra time and patience!
Give them some freedom, keeping safety in mind let them take the lead when possible on kitchen tasks so they build confidence.
Keep tasks age appropriate and achievable.
Make it fun and enjoyable.
Clean as you go and make cleaning tasks a game.
Build off of simple kitchen skills as they grow in confidence and maturity.
The most important thing to remember in the kitchen with your kids is to enjoy your time together and build memories while you build skills and confidence in your child.