By Fredrica Syren:
According to my kids, the kitchen is the most fascinating place, and as soon as I start cooking, I soon hear the familiar sound of chairs being pushed so the kids can climb up and see what I’m doing. I must admit that sometimes this raises my pulse and I feel stressed about the inconvenience of having the kids “help” me; however, inviting them to help when time allows can also be a good and fun experience.
Allowing kids to participate in cooking is a great way to teach them about nutrition and how foods are created. Of course, if you’re going to have kids help out, it has to be the right time — when they are rested and timing is right. I have found that involving kids (particularly my youngest) when I’m stressed or rushed equals disaster and is never fun for any of us. So I like to create easy dishes for them to participate in, and give them all an age-appropriate role. It’s so great to see how they each take their task to heart and try hard to do a good job, and how proud they always are of their accomplishments. I swear it makes them eat better, too, because they made the food.
My tips for cooking with kids are these:
Plan ahead—Know what you’re cooking and how, and prep all the ingredients before having kids join in.This saves a lot of stress from running around trying to find things.
Create simple dishes with few ingredients—Let’s face the fact that making an advanced dish is just going to make the kids lose interest. I found that making simple dishes like soup, pasta, pancakes, salad or smoothies is best because they take the shortest time and kids won’t get bored.
Hygiene—Make sure everyone cleans their hands with soap and water before, and explain why this is important.
Choose kids’ task(s) before starting to cook—Plan ahead which step and task the child is going to help with so you prep for both the child and yourself.
Safety—Always make sure little hands and bodies are safe in the kitchen: keep sharp objects away and keep the child away from open flames. Talk about safety before starting the cooking, too. Set up ground rules from the get-go. For example, you can say, “These objects are for adults only”; “We never put our hands on the stove”; and “We stay far away when Mommy opens oven”; etc.
Keep the mood light even in a disaster—Never yell and get angry with a child when cooking. He or she is doing the best they can and, yes, things won’t be perfect and that’s ok.
Accept messes—Kids in a kitchen equal messes. Just accept it, and you will have more fun, too.
Compliment your assistant chef—Children look for your approval, so praise them over and over again for a good job done and take pictures, lots of them☺