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For as long as I can remember I’ve been cooking in the kitchen. I’d have to say it really took off when I was a teenager. I even planned themed parties for my friends and all the food. So it was only natural that when I had children of my own I would include them in the kitchen as soon as I could.
My children have been cooking with me pretty much since the time they could stand up. We started with a simple recipe: banana bread. What kid wouldn’t like mashing up a banana? Now that they are a bit older, they help in lots of different ways in the kitchen. The added bonus: they are much more likely to try new foods (or even old foods) when they’ve helped prepare them!
When I first started bringing my kids into the kitchen, I mainly viewed it as another way to spend time together. But over the years, I have discovered that it is an opportunity for them to learn so much more. They learn patience as they wait for me to measure out ingredients or while things bake or cook until they are done. Vocabulary is boosted when they learn new words for the ingredients you use or techniques. As they grow, practicing reading the recipe helps them learn new words and make the comprehension connection when they see how everything goes together. Math sneaks its way into meal prep too; counting the number of ingredients to include, learning about different units of measurement and more. Practicing teamwork is an added bonus as they learn to take turns with you or with sibling helping too. For young children, motor skills are enhanced when they learn how to pour, mix, roll and stir. New textures are also introduced with the opportunity to notice differences between liquids, dry ingredients, batter and doughs. Other shapes and textures can be noted in the ingredients as well like different types of fruit, nuts, whole grains and more.
Tips for Getting Started:
• Use plastic bowls, measuring spoons & cups and other equipment, if possible.
• Expect a mess! And at the end, use that mess to teach them how to clean up—a valuable life skill!
• Be patient—kids sometimes take a long time and are messier than you might be.
• Bring cooking down to kid level; use a small table to prepare on or provide a chair or stool to stand on.
• Check your moods before starting—your child’s and yours! Choose a time when everyone is well-rested and in a good mood.
• Prepare ingredients in advance, if possible like pre-measuring ingredients, chopping items, etc. This will make things go smoother and more quickly—especially since kids’ attention spans can sometimes be really short!
• Teach children that ovens and stoves are hot and that is for the grown-ups. I taught my children to stand in the same spot on a nearby rug every time I opened and closed the oven—it’s a habit they still practice today!
Are you anxious to bring your kids into the kitchen with you but need a little guidance on what they can do? Here are a few guidelines by age:
One- to two-year-olds can:
- dump in premeasured dry ingredients and help stir
- help shape cookies and other dough
- tell you when the timer goes off
- hand you an egg or other ingredients
- help measure ingredients
- help crack eggs and mix ingredients
- help pour batter into a pan
- hold a mixer with you (his hand under yours)
- arrange food on a serving plate
- help read a recipe
- learn how to measure and mix dry ingredients
- crack eggs and learn how to separate yolk from white
- learn how to safely use mixer or wire whisk
- set a timer
- read a recipe out loud
- follow most of a recipe with your help and supervision, except placing things in or pulling them out of an oven
Nine-year-olds and up can:
follow a recipe without help
Now go make some memories and yummy food and get your kids into the kitchen with you!