I wanted to begin the new year with a challenge to bring your kids into the kitchen more in 2014, but the whole thing felt a little…pushy.
The groundwork has been laid, but what is helpful now is practical advice from other parents who are actively cooking alongside their children of all ages.
Today, we’ll hear tips for bringing kids in the kitchen from readers who have emailed, commented or interacted on social media. These tidbits are just too useful not to share and I know you’ll relate to these honest parents and their experiences.
Photo by Tim Chin
Best tips for cooking with kids from the readers of Simple Bites
“My girls have been in the kitchen with me from day 1. My husband and I both cook with slightly different styles which I think helps the kids to be a bit more well rounded. There is never only one way to do things. ~ Stacie
“The last 3 years of teaching boys to cook in after school clubs has show me how very capable they are. That has been the number one comment from parents too “Wow – I didn’t realize how capable he was”. Letting kids loose in the kitchen is a sight to behold and one that inspires ME as a cook and baker each and every week.” ~ Mardi
“My daughter is two and a half and she loves to help me cook. I used to cringe over her mess, especially since half of the flour mixture would end up outside of the bowl. I have now learned to say, “who cares!” She is slowly getting less messy and we have lots of fun.” ~ Sarah
“Our 2 and a half year old loves to help cook. I let her pour and stir and she’s thrilled. It’s definitely more messy than if I cook alone but less messy than if she’s playing elsewhere while I cook.” ~ Steph
“I spend a little time each summer having mom and child cooking lessons – with three it requires planning so each gets some time – when they were small we could share, now it’s best to have it one on one time.” ~ Cheri
“We have a “kids cook” night every Tuesday. The kids are responsible for the planning, shopping, and cooking.” ~ Shaina
“We bought our daughter a set of her own child-safe knives so she can cut fruits and vegetables. By doing this, it has not only improved her love for cooking and helping, but has had the added benefit of expanding her tastes and food she will eat.” ~ Leah
“My son is 9 years old and can now cook complete meals. I’ve been exposing him to cooking since his very early days; like all little kids, he loved so much to touch, taste, smell…I think it’s very educational and it opens up new worlds to kids.” ~ La Torontoise
“I prep all the ingredients in advance, especially for baking. It makes things so much easier for little helping hands! This is very convenient for my 3 yr old who wants to help but gets impatient. Things need to move fast!” ~ Shannon
“I always put a damp cloth under the kids’ mixing bowl – it keeps it from shifting around and cuts the spills way down!” ~ Robin
“I think preparation is the key. When Timothy was too little to measure but liked putting things in the mixer, I had everything measured out like a tv chef in little bowls.” ~ Christina
“Motherhood has such long stretches of “when will this ever pay off?” and we need more of these beacons along the way! My girls are often in the kitchen with me (they both started stirring homemade applesauce at 1 1/2) and I have learned a few sanity savers: really messy cooking (great clouds of flour and sticky fruit) are great for the days when you are planning to clean the kitchen that day ANYWAY. Slower paced days are helpful. And as it turns out, I make almost as big a mess as the munchkins!” ~ Ashley
“My handy clean up tip is to put half sheets under bowls or measuring cups to help minimize the spillage onto the floors.” ~ Emily
“I just bought my 7 year old ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family and Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book for my 4 year old. The love picking out meals for us. Their fave has been chicken stir fry, between gardening at home and school and cooking my kids have really become real food kids.” ~ Erin
“Tasting!!! When my seven year old says “Mama, let’s have a taste, because I helped cooked dinner, I get to sample it!” Yes in the tasting and seeing if it’s just right.” ~ Kamille
“When the kids were younger, I let them loose with non-cooking creativity. They made unique salads and dressings. And that brings me to another aspect of letting kids in the kitchen – creativity and resourcefulness. When my kids want something delicious now I turn it back to to them – what can you make?” ~ Sarah
“In my experience, kids of any age build confidence by learning to do something that can spark creativity and also things that not anyone can do without practice. Having one or even two signature things they like to make gives them a sense of pride for their hard work. This particularly helps during those difficult teen years too.” ~ Dionne
“One thing I have found helpful for when they want to be with me in the kitchen but can’t really help in what I\’m doing is to let them ”work” at the island with plain flour or a simple flour/water dough. They get to use all the fun kitchen tools and be a part of what is going on, while I can focus on what I need to do.” ~ Lisa
“When cooking with kids I always have to remind myself to relax! It will probably take more time and be more of a mess than if I did it myself but of course it’s not about that! It’s not going to be fun for them if I’m freaking out the whole time.” ~ Nora
“Top tips: re-measure ingredients for pre-schoolers (makes the cooking time quicker, less stressful and allows them to be more hands-on); melt butter when baking (much easier for the kids to stir by hand and makes little taste difference); play “games” with food and give certificates for trying new foods (eg try eating dried apples off string, bite carrots into funny shapes, try picking up raisins and berries with a toothpick – good for motor skills too); make up silly names for food.” ~ Nicole
“Put together the basics and let the kids choose the add ins. Example – I made the basic muffin recipe and each kid got a bowl of the batter with their choice to add choc chips, raisins, etc. Same with smoothies. They got to choose their fruit to add in. The younger the kid the shorter the attention span, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.” ~ Derica
Photo by Tim Chin
“You know, if I cook all by myself, the kitchen DOES stay neater. BUT, while I am cooking, I have 3 kids making messes all over the rest of the house. If they help me, the mess is only in the kitchen, they really do help me prepare the meal and I make sure they help me clean up after. It really is my favorite way to sneak more quality time in with them while still being productive and teaching them their way around the kitchen at the same time!” ~ Emily
“My oldest is in first grade and as he learns to read is also more interested in reading his own recipes and cooking with me. He has his own cookbooks as well and it’s been a blast going through them together! It definitely does get better, and all of those “exhausting” earlier days are worth it.” ~ Diana
“I had some people over the other day who were amazed that my kids were eating a soup with chard in it. But they helped make it, they helped chop the chard, the helped stir the pot, and they helped flavor check while it cooked. Cooking really changes kids perception of the food. For me, the hardest part has just been letting go of a little control – sometimes I have to pick out egg shells when they crack the eggs, sometimes I hover nervously while Esme chops an onion, but so far, things have always worked out!” ~ Allison
Editor’s Note: You all inspire me so much. You’re patient, caring, creative and ever so smart about teaching your children to cook. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Keep commenting; you’re a valuable part of this community.
Feeling inspired yet? Let’s cook up a storm with our kids in 2014.