When you first begin cooking with your children there are many things to consider from setting up the kitchen, to selecting recipes, to working with more than one child at once. With a little planning you can spend true quality time with your children while helping them learn about food and explore their interest in cooking.Create a designated work station with enough surface area for the activity, and remove unnecessary appliances and other items from the countertop. Make sure that your children can comfortably and safely reach the surface where you will be working. Keep in mind that it may be easier for younger kids to sit while performing more complicated or longer tasks.
Learning To Cook Together
Most kids will eagerly help out with any part of the cooking process, and even if they arent able to help directly, just spending time with you in the kitchen will be educational and fulfilling for them. In general, you'll want to encourage your children to try as much by themselves as is safely possible. Reassure them that its OK to make mistakes and that you are there to help with any step that they are unsure about. Most importantly, be patient and remember that kids usually take much longer to perform most tasks, especially when starting out with something new. Here are some general tips for starting cooking together:
Calculate amount of time a recipe will take from beginning to end, including prep work and clean-up. Make sure that you will have adequate time to avoid rushing or cutting the activity short.
When following a recipe, go over it together step by step before beginning so kids understand what they will be doing and are familiar with all of the equipment that they will be using. Have all of the ingredients together and ready for use.
If you are cooking with multiple children, always encourage cooperation. Let younger kids each take turns trying the same parts of the recipe. For older kids, divide up the steps among each child.
Have some healthy snacks available so kids arent overly hungry or distracted when they are cooking. Depending on the time of day, have out some chopped raw vegetables or sliced fruits that can be nibbled on.
When children are old enough to cook some of the daily dishes for the family themselves, it is inevitable that things will not always come out perfectly when they cook a recipe for the first few times. If you are relying on these dishes to serve the family, you can help ease the disappointment and hunger, by having extra quantities of ingredients or a back-up option on-hand.Involve children in cleaning, and have plenty of towels and sponges nearby. Make it clear that cleaning is part of the cooking process, and everyone is expected to help. Try assigning a specific task to each child.
Making Time to Cook
One of the easiest ways to cook with your children is to involve them in the day-to-day family cooking. A great way to schedule time to cook with your children is to plan a designated night for them to cook dinner. If there are multiple children, they can each have their own night, or work together to cook an entire meal.
If you arent always able to set aside designated time for your child to cook a recipe, there are parts of assembling almost all meals that they can help with on their own. Here are just a few common dishes that kids of various ages can help cook:
Cracking and whisking eggs for scrambled eggs for omelettesMaking batters for pancakes and waffles, setting up a toppings bar with their favorite fruits and syrupsFollowing instructions to make a pot of oatmeal on the stoveMaking their own fruit and yogurt smoothie creations
Making their own sandwiches or wraps with different breads, meats, cheeses, or experimenting with different types of nut butters and jellies or jamsWashing and packing or slicing whole fruitCutting carrots, celery or other raw vegetablesAssembling a quesadilla or topping a pizza crust
Washing and peeling potatoes, and mashing cooked potatoesMixing and rolling meatballs or meatloaf Crushing canned tomatoes and making tomato sauceBoiling spaghetti or assembling lasagna layers
Using an air popper to make popcornSpreading peanut butter or cream cheese on celery sticksMaking hummus or other dips for carrots and raw vegetablesBaking homemade granola with oats, nuts, fruits and honey
On weekends, vacations, or whenever you can designate more time to cooking, you can take on more lengthy recipes to follow them entirely with your children. Baking and decorating cakes and cookies, making fresh pasta and pizza dough, and slowly cooking savory soups and stews are some favorite recipes that may take a little bit more time and planning. These are also great opportunities to try some very fun and very educational food projects with your children:
Learn what yeast is and how dough rises by making a sourdough bread starter Watch milk transform by making your own yogurtMake fresh mozzarella or ricotta cheese to use on pizza or pastaTeach kids about growing food by planting some vegetables or growing a kitchen herb garden
The cooking process really starts with choosing recipes and food. Involving your children in meal planning and shopping for the food youll be cooking with is a great way to get them excited about the cooking process and educate them on the specific foods you will be using.
Before shopping, review any recipes that you will be making together and make a list of all of the ingredients that you will need to buy.
When selecting foods, discuss what parts of the world they originally came from and what to consider when buying them. Demonstrate how to choose produce and have them point out the differences between varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Whenever possible visit local farmers markets, butcher shops, bakeries, and other specialty markets with your children. This is one of the best ways to educate them on how foods are traditionally grown or made.