The past few weeks have been bitterly cold in Southern Ontario and we have been burrowing in the house trying to keep warm. We’ve been having great fun building towers and reading books, but as the days wear on, we’re running out of things to do. It can be difficult keeping young children entertained, but I’ve found that including them in real life activities like cleaning and cooking can be a great way to pass the time, bond, and still get things done around the house. Cooking with kids can be a bit intimidating: handling sharp objects, dealing with a hot stove and making a big mess–no thanks! But if you take a few simple steps to prepare, cooking with kids can be a lot of fun.
Select an Easy Recipe
This is probably the most obvious, and yet the most important advice I can give you: choose the recipe you plan to tackle with your child wisely. Recipes that are complicated to follow or which require precise measurements should be avoided at all costs! In fact, start with some simple snacks to get your child used to helping in the kitchen and familiar with using cooking tools. I’m talking, Ants on a Log (peanut butter or cream cheese on celery with raisins) or Apple Slice Pizzas (apples smeared in peanut butter and topped with coconut flakes, chocolate chips and other favourite treats). From there, move on up to a salad or a simple vegetable soup.
If your kids are anything like mine, they will get very excited if you invite them to cook with you. So excited, in fact, that they will start opening drawers and cabinets and pulling things out. Things can get quite chaotic very quickly. If you prepare a few things before you actually begin, they will go a lot smoother. How much you prepare will depend on the age and capabilities of your child. When my daughter was really little, I started by pre-measuring ingredients and simply having her pour them into a bowl and mix everything together. As she got older, we began measuring out the ingredients together. Now, at age 6, she’s cracking eggs and chopping vegetables. At the bare minimum, have all the ingredients you will need out on the counter along with measuring cups, bowls, spoons or whatever else the recipe requires.
Invest in Some Kid-Friendly Kitchen Tools
Cooking with children can present some challenges. First of all, kids are little. It is difficult for them them to comfortably reach the kitchen counter. If you have a kitchen island and you feel comfortable having them work on stools, you are set. If not, pull your kid-sized furniture in from the playroom or living room and bring the food to them! In our last house, we used the Ikea LATT in our kitchen almost daily. You could also use a stool or, if the budget allows, pick up a kitchen helper like this one. Kids will be able to stand safely next to you at the counter and you won’t have to worry that they’re going to slip off and get hurt.
Other tools that are very handy when cooking with children include a cutting board with a rubber grip on the underside to prevent it from sliding around, and disposable plastic knives for cutting or a child-safe knife like this one. The main idea here is to make sure that your child can participate fully, but in a way that is completely safe. Also nice to have, but not entirely necessary, would be a child-sized apron. Because things can get messy when you are working with kids.
And While We’re on the Topic of Safety…
Spend some time going over safety rules of the kitchen before and during your your time in the kitchen. Show children how to safely use a knife and remind them never to touch the stove or oven. Have them stand back a safe distance when you are cooking food that might splash them or are taking things out of the oven. And keep the area around you free of clutter–you don’t want to be tripping over each other when you’re carrying a knife or a pot of hot water. Be safe! And finally…
Have Cleaning Supplies and Tools Handy
Cooking with kids can be quite a messy venture. No matter how hard they try to get that cup of flour into the bowl without any spills, they just don’t have the gross motor skills to do things as easily as you. So take a deep breath and try to really enjoy this bonding experience with your child. If you follow the steps above, the mess will already be minimized. Just make sure to have a broom and dustpan, a wet dishcloth and some kitchen towels handy to sweep and wipe up spills as they happen. Then you can enjoy yourself instead of stressing.
What are your favourite recipes to make with your kids? Let us know in the comments.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.