When rainy days, a lack of plans, or a global pandemic keeps you inside with kids heading to the kitchen with your little ones is a classic way to pass the time. Everyone has to eat and creating a meal or treat together not only fills that basic need but also teaches your kids skills they will need when they fly the coop one day.
According to Lee Scott, Chair, Goddard School Education Advisory Board, cooking with kids is a terrific way to enjoy a special time with your children and support learning as well. It is also a great way to relieve stress and add some laughter into the da when you are stuck at home. Cooking with kids can sometimes be difficult if you have different age ranges and abilities, but cooking is great for all ages and you can include even the youngest of children with a little planning.
- Start with a plan. Ask your children, “What shall we make?” Once you come decide on a recipe work with your children to list the ingredients. Think about ways you can draw children into cooking. For example, my children love the smoothies, salsa, and other things we make in our Vitamix. Allowing children to use what type of equipment they want to use can be a motivating factor and even very young children can safely pour ingredients in the blender or turning the knob to the smoothie setting.
- If you are coming up with a recipe on the fly and pulling ideas from what you have in the refrigerator or pantry talk about what your children like to eat and plan from there.
- Offer choices to simplify the activity. Ask your children things like “Do you want carrots or celery in the salad?” Or since my children are often eager to help at every stage, when using appliances like out Kitchenaid stand mixer, I often ask them “Who would like to pour in the flour and who would like to move the lever to start mixing?” When making pasta, kids can choose the shape.
- Consider a recipe that teaches children about how their commonly eaten food is made. Explore making your own butter or peanut butter. Baking bread has recently become a very popular baking activity with a newfound interest in creating sourdough starter and other breads. Create memories by using tools like a Le Creuset Dutch Oven or affordable Heritage Loaf Pan that could last long enough for you to had down to your children when they are baking with children of their own.
Your children will be practicing decision-making skills, learning collaboration as well as planning and organization. These are essential skills all children need for success in school and in life.
Using a recipe – where everyone has a job:
- Children can help with the measuring. This is especially easy if you hand them a measuring cup or spoon and ask them to fill it up! Elementary aged children can use this child-friendly Kinder Kitchen Children’s Essential set from Kuhn Rikon to help safely cut veggies, cheese, and more.
- Assist younger children with pouring tasks such as placing a piece of tape on the measured line to help them pour the correct amount.
- Older children can read out the recipe and measure ingredients as you cook.
- Set the timer and talk about temperature.
Recipe activities help your children with reading, math and science skills.
Enjoying your labor:
- Everyone can help by setting the table.
- Make personalized placemats with paper and a few crayons or markers.
- Enjoy the meal or treat you have created together. Ask your children what they like best.
Preparing the table and enjoying the meal teaches sorting, counting, creativity, fine motor and organizing skills.
Reading books about cooking as a regular part of your reading routine helps to build an understanding of all that goes into cooking while supporting development of language skills. This can be fun at bedtime after you have been cooking together or before you make your meal to provide inspiration. Ms. Scott has a few favorites including:
- Be Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
- Feast for Ten by Cathryn Falwell
- Froggy Bakes a Cake by Jonathan London
If you are not sure where to start consider a subscription to a monthly subscription service like Raddish Kids that comes with three kid-friendly recipes (with possible modifications) each month and access to cooking videos.
No matter what you cook up with your little ones, or how the end result tastes, spending time in the kitchen with your kids is (usually) fun and has the added benefit of teaching kids lessons that will stay with them once they fly the coop.