Getting kids in the kitchen has all kinds of surprising benefits, from teaching them an important life skill to opening them up to new taste experiences. Here are eight ways to encourage your budding sous-chef.
Families report that the primary reason they don’t cook with their kids is lack of time. Try making time on the weekend when everyone’s more relaxed. Breakfast can be a great starter meal that includes cutting up fruit, mixing pancake batter, or whipping eggs for an omelet.
You don’t have to buy a kid-specific cookbook, just let them leaf through a cookbook with pictures and choose recipes. When kids have some say, they’re more invested in the meal and actually eating it. Or maybe they’ve tried a meal at a friend’s house they particularly like. Hunt up a recipe for it online.
If you’re a champion cook yourself, your vision of the culinary outcome can put a damper on kids’ enthusiasm for contributing. Keep it light, let them experiment, and don’t worry about the results.
Head out to the grocery store or your farmers market and talk about the different fruits and vegetables they see and which they would like to try. Let them choose a couple they’d like to take home (next trip, choose something different). Teach older kids how to comparison shop for ingredients by evaluating the cost of different brands for the recipes they would like to prepare.
Cooking involves scooping, rolling, chopping, tasting, exploring textures, and yes, some mess. But with a little patience on your part and doling out age-appropriate tasks, kids can become champion helpers. Toddlers can help with pouring pre-measured ingredients and stirring batters. Preschoolers can measure and chop with a butter knife. School-aged kids can develop knife skills and use the stove with supervision.
The best way to get kids eating what they’ve produced is to ensure they’re making something they want to try. From there you can move into kitchen basics like soup or casserole. Try a muffin or scone recipe for that weekend breakfast or cookies for an afternoon snack. Kids also enjoy meatballs, homemade pizza, and simple pasta dishes. Put on aprons and turn on the music.
To dig into the chemistry behind cooking for extra fun, a Tasty Science kit provides extras like test tubes and pipettes to experiment with making foods that rise, bubble, and fizz.
Even the youngest child can help by wiping counters, and cleanup is a key part of cooking (plus their future housemates will thank you). Teach them how to load the dishwasher, sweep up floor messes, and hand-wash larger bowls in the sink.
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