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With the pandemic still a concern and the uncertainty of our schools’ reopening, it’s now more important than ever to keep children busy at home.
One way to keep them engaged is to teach them valuable life skills that will be useful later in life. Cooking, in particular, is a great skill for your little one to learn with your guidance and supervision.
Young children are notoriously picky eaters. By teaching them how to cook, you can teach your child about food varieties and help them develop their own palette. Cooking will introduce them to a variety of different foods, and they’re more likely to eat something they’ve had a hand in preparing.
Here are some tips for making cooking time with children a fun and engaging activity for everyone:
Let your kids choose what to cook
Want a surefire way to keep your children interested in the kitchen? Ask them to pick out which dish to cook. It will make them feel like they’re making an important contribution to the family.
Keep them involved in the entire cooking process. You can solicit their help when planning the menu for the week, or allow them to help you choose products when you order your groceries online.
Practice safety in the kitchen
Before embarking on any recipe, make sure your children are wearing an apron, secure their hair in place, and remind them to wash their hands for a good 20 seconds.
Create a separate workspace for them and use a safety step tool when necessary. It helps to set expectations before you start so they know that running, dancing, skidding, or fighting with each other while cooking are not safe.
Also, make sure to assign age-appropriate tasks. Cutting vegetables and handling heat appliances should be reserved for older kids or with guidance. Some of the simple kitchen tasks you can assign to a toddler include:
- washing vegetables
- spreading butter on bread
- peeling boiled eggs
- rolling dough
- assembling pizza
- mashing food
- tearing lettuce for salad
- stirring pancake batter
Keep it fun
To keep your kids engaged, allow them to use their own tools and accessories, such as a children’s chef’s hat and kitchen utensils. Instead of jumping straight ahead to regular dishes you cook everyday, try these kid-friendly recipes first: pancakes, mac and cheese, pb&j sandwiches, pizza, and cookies. You can then introduce them to more complex dishes as their skills evolve.
Additionally, consider starting with individual servings to make your kids feel like they’re getting a special treat. For example, you can use a mini-loaf pan for baking loaf bread or small pitas when making pizza.
Embrace the Education
It’s easy enough to include lessons while teaching kids how to cook. For instance, you can talk about the colors of the rainbow by getting colorful produce. You can also teach them the alphabet by helping them cut out letters out of a pizza dough.
There are even opportunities to explain basic science lessons, such as how baking powder leavens dough. Plus, allow them to tinker with ingredients so they can explore different flavor profiles such as sweet, salty, sour, and spicy.
Kids can even brush up on their reading and comprehension skills by reading the recipes together. Also, keep in mind that children are never too young to learn about important topics such as hunger, nutrition, family traditions, and culture.
Your kitchen will likely look a little messy once all the cooking and eating are done. Accepting that messes will always be a part of cooking with kids reduces the stress of trying to keep things clean.
You may get a grumble from your teenager when you ask them to wash the dishes, but a 3- to 5-year-old is more likely to willingly accept instructions. You can ask them to put the dishes in the sink, put items away on a cupboard, wipe the counters, or sweep the floor.
Take it to the next level
Once your budding chefs have mastered the basics, you can take their skills a step further by buying them kids’ cooking kits. There are several cooking kits specifically designed for children to help nurture their creativity while also helping to build math and literacy skills.
Involving your children in the kitchen can be a rewarding process for everyone. This fun activity can help to reduce mealtime stress and picky eating, while also providing some precious bonding time for the whole family.