Cooking together as a family is a great way to introduce kids to healthy eating philosophies and basic skills in the kitchen that they’ll need as they grow. Busy schedules can make it hard to cultivate an appreciation for all that goes into preparing a meal from scratch, but cooking together as a family makes everyone just a little more grateful for the meal you share. If you’re looking for ways to get started cooking and baking with kids, you’ve come to the right spot. Check out these tips and smart advice on how to get children excited about creating in the kitchen.
Make a Plan
Okay, real talk: Young kids are more likely to eat what they recognize, so before you start cooking, enlist their help in designing a weekly menu to increase the odds that they’ll eat what you serve. Ask them for some favorite dishes they would like to have in the coming week then build on those requests to make sure you have a balanced meal. If they’re requesting fried chicken, have some of their favorite vegetables on hand, too. If it’s a spaghetti and meatballs night, keep things balanced with a hearty helping of leafy greens.
Visit the Store
A trip to the grocery store is a massive adventure for a young child. Turn it into a treasure hunt by asking your kids to help you locate the ingredients for these recipes. First, write up a list of everything you’ll need to purchase. Give each child a marker that they can use to cross items off the list once they are found.
At the store, divvy up who will look for what. For children 7 and under, you’ll work together as a team to scour the aisles for the necessary items. Older kids can search for themselves and report back with their findings.
Play It Safe
Kids love getting down and dirty, so the next step in fostering their love of cooking is to get them involved in meal prep. Prioritize safety: Find a sturdy step stool for your preschooler so he or she can see over the counter height. Youngsters might help with tasks like mixing ingredients using a silicone spoon contoured for small hands and a non-breakable bowl that suctions to the counter surface for stability. (You’ll probably want to give whatever it is a final “mix” when they’re finished.) Kids might be able to scoop out the center of veggies like eggplant or squash using a tot-friendly stainless steel spoon and nonslip cutting boards. School-age children can also use mixing bowls with handles to help prepare the meal.
Set Them Up for Success
Kids are always happier to take part in an activity if they get to do rather than just watch. Help make this happen by outfitting them with their own gadgets such as plastic measuring beakers and spoons. Bolster their sense of independence by assigning them tasks they can complete with minimal assistance, such as cleaning vegetables, readying fresh herbs, or juicing lemons. At mealtime, make sure you highlight your child’s contributions. A comment like “Our compliments to the chef!” can go a long way to raising confidence and encouraging your child to keep at it.
Let It Go
No lie, this next step can be hard. But here’s the truth: Kids are more likely to fall in love with cooking if it’s fun and stress-free, which means parents need to be okay with a little mess. Remove any cookbooks, picture frames, and anything else you don’t want to get wet or dirty from the kitchen counter, and throw some newspaper or old towels on the floor for extra protection if you’d like. Then, take a deep breath and remember that the goal here is to make cooking fun. Because if kids enjoy it, they’ll keep doing it, even once they’re on their own.
Looking for more kid-friendly ideas? Check out our Cooking with Kids recipe library and the Little Green Chefs initiative, packed with useful instructional info and suggestions for foodie family activities.