You know it’s going to be messy. You pray they don’t sneeze into the mixing bowl. And you understand the patience of a saint will be required just to make a simple snack.
But the benefits of cooking with your kids far outweigh the mess and stress. This is one of the most important activities to share with children as we all need to eat.
We may get through life without ever painting that canvas we had planned, or knitting a scarf, but we won’t get through life without food.
We may not all become chefs, but if we are taught at an early age to understand food – where it comes from, what it does, we are more likely to make wise eating choices later in life.
I remember when my youngest son was four he kept asking if he could help me with the ironing. Of course, I couldn’t let him as it was hot and dangerous and by the time he was old enough, it was just about the last thing he wanted to do.
It’s such a shame that our kids are most eager to help when the task is beyond their ability and safety.
It’s a reason we often reject their help and it’s understandable.
However, when it comes to helping in the kitchen, there is plenty young children can do to help that is safe – well unless they do sneeze in the mixing bowl and we all end up with the flu.
Most weeks I have a simple packet cupcake mix to share making with the grandkids. We’ve been doing this since the oldest Goddess was two and now her little sister is in on the act as well.
Now that we’ve nailed the basic training in hygiene – washing hands, NOT sneezing in the mixing bowl, not sampling the food with your fingers while still preparing it, we have been able to move onto more challenging dishes.
Sometimes we’ll make the cupcakes from scratch, they will put together their own lunch sandwiches – strawberry jam and vegemite – yum!
Cookies are great fun – mixing the ingredients, helping to roll out the dough, using cookie cutters to make the shapes. So many skills are being learned while we’re having fun together.
Then there’s the decorating – so much fun, especially if there are sprinkles involved!
The latest cooking adventure has been meatballs and this is a big hit.
Naturally, as pre-schoolers, they are too young to do any actual cooking safely, but they love getting their hands covered in food and rolling the little balls.
The Goddesses are still a bit young to use proper knives for cutting, so I pre-cut the ingredients and put them in separate bowls so they can add them to the mixing bowl.
Then they grab a small amount of the mix in their hands and roll it into little balls – great for fine motor skills.
They are so proud when they see their parents and grandparents eating the food they have made.
The four-year-old Goddess absolutely loves juicing citrus fruit so I make sure to save some oranges for her to do this regularly.
Another fun way they can help is by mashing vegetables, such as potatoes and pumpkin.
How about some edible art? Face cookies are always a big hit and they can even make faces with their sandwiches using fruit and vegetables.
TIPS FOR HOW TO COOK WITH YOUR KIDS
- The most important thing to teach them is kitchen hygiene – they must wash their hands properly before they begin.
- A gentle reminder about sneezing, wiping their nose, and premature taste testing is also a good idea.
- Consider having child-size utensils for them to use. I have plastic knives for the Goddesses to use when they are adding astonishing combinations of spreads to their bread for sandwiches.
- A cover for your mixing bowl is a great idea if you are letting them use an electric mixer and want to avoid batter splatter everywhere.
- When they are breaking eggs for a cake, get them to break them into a separate bowl first, then add to the mixing bowl. This way it is easy to get any bits of shell that find their way into the bowl.
- If using decorations such as sprinkles, put a small amount in a small bowl rather than let them shake from the bottle – you could end up with sprinkles everywhere.
- If they have their own aprons to wear you can save their clothes and a wet washer on hand is a must if you want to avoid food smeared walls.
There are so many benefits to cooking with your kids. The benefits are even greater if you combine this with growing their own veggies – did you see my post 7 Reasons Need to Be Gardening With Kids?
10 REASONS YOU NEED TO COOK WITH YOUR KIDS
- Teaches them about food hygiene – washing hands, washing fruits and vegetables and so on.
- They learn about where food comes from and what is healthy.
- They develop a taste for healthy home cooking and are less reliant on pre-prepared junk food.
- It encourages creativity – decorating the cookies and cupcakes, suggesting which vegetables would go well together.
- They learn about measuring and maths – we need three carrots for this meal, pour half a cup of milk in the mixing bowl.
- It teaches meal planning techniques.
- It opens the door to have detailed conversations about what is healthy.
- You are teaching them an important life skill.
- It teaches them patience – waiting for the cookies to be ready.
- It gives them a sense of confidence and pride in their creations.
It’s really fun and also makes a great bribe – the cupcakes will be ready for you to decorate after you’ve had your nap.
Happy cooking and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.