Cooking with children can be a great experience, not only for the children, but for you too. Children are fascinated by anything that takes place in the kitchen.
From bringing the initial grocery items into the house to store in the pantry, to placing a fully prepared meal in front of them at dinner time, children want to understand the whole process. I firmly believe it is the number one reason the kitchen seems to be their favorite place anytime food is being prepared. So… let them join in!
There are several benefits to letting children join you in the kitchen. If you are using a recipe, not only does the entire process help with reading, comprehension, and math skills, but they also learn some important lessons. Children learn that it is important to follow directions and they learn about nutrition.
Not only that, but cooking and baking are fun as is experimenting with new recipes.
Learning a new skill also increases their confidence and self-esteem.
Start small. Even children as young as two or three are capable of handling easy tasks.
A first time learning-to-cook lesson should involve a recipe the child has eaten before and liked. After that, cooking with children is a good way to explore new foods. Kids are also more likely to try new foods if they helped to prepare it.
Look the recipe over together. Explain what
a recipe is, and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand.
Assemble all of the ingredients before you start. Teach good hygiene.
Make sure everyone washes their hands prior to starting.
Use stools or chairs so they can comfortably see what is going on. Start with wooden or plastic utensils, and plastic bowls until a child’s skill level says they are ready for more grown up tools. Even then, monitor closely.
Let the child do any part of the recipe they are capable of. If you are cooking with more than one child, let them each contribute in some way. Most ingredients (once measured) can be divided in two (or three) so there are more ways to “help”. If something needs to be mixed (a child’s favorite) let the children count how many “stirs” and let each child have an equal amount.
Use part of this activity time to teach safety in cooking. Make sure all pan handles are turned inward toward the back of the stove. Remind children that the stove, pans, and dishes can be hot. Show them how oven mitts and pot holders are used.
Expect that messes will be made, and then teach that clean up is a part of cooking.
Most of all, when cooking with children, enjoy the process and praise the effort.
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