Cooking with your kids in the kitchen is HARD! While I cook with my kids regularly, I 100% recognize that having them in the kitchen with me is a challenge. It tests my patience, makes me nervous and anxious, and it usually results in a mess twice the size.
I’m sure that stellar recommendation made you want to jump right into the kitchen with your kids, am I right?
But despite the challenges I bring my kids into the kitchen on a regular basis for a few reasons and I am excited to share them with you. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve to make cooking with kids a little easier to try and avoid the nervous, anxious feelings in the kitchen.
Benefits of Cooking with Kids in the Kitchen
I feel like there isn’t much to explain here. We all need to eat and cooking or baking is how we make food to eat. While many families eat out often (and I am not judging) knowing how to make a meal for yourself is empowering. When our kids know how to cook for themselves we are setting them up to be successful with making affordable healthy choices to feed themselves and their future families.
Truth be told that is a long term goal and you are likely thinking I can teach them when they are 15 and it won’t be as challenging. You’re probably right. It will probably be much easier to teach a 15 year-old or heck even a 10 year-old. However, this is an opportunity for you to teach your child to be a little more independent. And it may even result in them being able to independently make a meal for you by the time they are 10.
Think about all the tasks you do in the kitchen; mixing, folding, spreading, flipping, cutting, peeling, pouring. All of those tasks require fine motor skills. You use small movements and control of your wrists to cook.
Inviting your kids into the kitchen to cook with you will allow them to practice those fine motor skills. They will strengthen their hands, writsts, and fingers which will continue to help them develop other life skills like buttoning, zippering, and writing.
Cooking requires you to read and use basic math skills.
In order to follow a recipe you need to be able to read it. Even if you start off making boxed mixes there is a recipe to follow. This is actually where I first started to show Reagan how to “read” a recipe. She can read the pictures of the necessary ingredients and the steps. This has sparked her interest in reading as she can see the need for it beyond reading a story.
Cooking, especially baking, also requires basic math skills. You have to measure ingredients (often in fractions), count to be sure you are using the correct number of ingredients (2 eggs), and monitor time and temperature.
Cooking can be a FABULOUS way to engage a reluctant or struggling learner. It can be frustrating to drill a reading or math concept, but cooking will require your child to use those skills in a very real and natural way without feeling like you are practicing your math and reading skills.
I know I mentioned that being in the kitchen with my kids can cause me anxiety and make me nervous. But it also allows me to connect with my kids. I have always loved being in the kitchen, so having my kids in the kitchen (my happy place) is so special. I love being able to share that time with them and teach them a hobby that I truly enjoy. And it is not all about me, my kids ask to be in the kitchen with me, so saying yes is an opportunity to make them feel special and important. We laugh and taste test a whole lot when we are in the kitchen together.
There are two health benefits to inviting your kids in the kitchen.
- They are more likely to make homemade meals as an adult. While homemade meals do not always equate to healthy, they are usually healthier than resturaunts becasue the avaerage home cook uses less oil and butter.
- Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to try new foods. Goodness, I have heard this tid bit and held on to it since Reagan was a baby. I currently have a very picky 5 year-old who is hesitant to try most foods. In the last month I have included her more in cooking with me (versus our usual baking sessions) and she has tried 4 new foods this week. She hasn’t liked a sinlge one, but she has voluntarily tried 4 new foods which was a big deal for us.
Tips for Cooking with Kids
Start with “recipes” that are more assembly than actual cooking. Make your own trail mix, fruit kabobs, or chocolate pretzel bites.
There are a ton of “kid recipes” on Pinterest or in kids cookbooks. Many of the ideas are adorable, but they have a lot of steps and are incredibly complex.
By starting simple you are giving your kids (and yourself) an opportunity for success and to become comfortable in the kitchen.
When cooking with kids there is a sequence of skills based on their difficulty.
- Cooking with Heat
Look for recipes that start with the simpler steps/skills.
I love to cook from scratch, but with kids, ain’t nobody got time for that. Cooking with kids in the kitchen is incredibly stressful so I elimnate some of the stressors by simplifying the cooking process. Boxed or bagged mixes simplify the process. I can focus more on teaching, helping, and connecting with my kids when I am not focusing on a complex recipe.
Mise en Place
If you do decided to cook from scratch I recommend you practice mise en place. That is a fancy French term that means you measure all the ingredients and place them in their own bowls so that when it is time to cook you just dump and go. This will use every dish in the house (which is my least favorite thing), but it also allows you to make some of your favorite recipes with your kids with minimal stress.
One Kid at a Time
When I am trying a new recipe with my kids, more often than not, I cook with one kid at a time. Either my kids take turns or one is too busy playing to notice that the other is baking with me. The point is, I make cooking with kids more managable by only cooking with one kid at a time. This also serves as a great opportunitiy to spend one-on-one time with my kids.
Having some kid friendly kitchen tools avaliable will also help. I own a set of kid knives and child aprons. Other tools that might be helpful are child size utensils and a learning tower (we just use a chair in our house but you may prefer a learning tower)
Here are a few links for some kid’s kitchen tools.
I love baking and cooking with my kids. It is truly something that brings me and my kids great joy. With that said, I know it can be hard, intimidating, and stressful. I am not a rainbows and buterflies mom blogger, I try to be honest and real. These tips will set you up for success and allow you to be the Pinterest Mom that you envisioned being.