Kids in the Kitchen
If you have kids, chances are you’ve already heard the official summer battle cry. You know the one I mean. “I’m BOOOOOORRRRRED”. One of my favorite ways to keep the boredom monster at bay with my little one is to get her busy in the kitchen.
Once your child is old enough to feed themself, they're old enough to help in the kitchen. No, you’re not going to hand your 3-year-old a carving knife, but there are age-appropriate ways to get kids involved in the kitchen at all ages.
Why should I get my kid involved in the kitchen?
Won’t they just make a mess? It’ll go much faster on my own. While these things are true, they’re also not the point. Getting young children involved in cooking and baking isn’t about the time-savings. (That comes in their teen years when they can cook dinner by themselves!) Getting kids involved in the kitchen is about building a relationship between them and what they eat. It's about setting a foundation for the love and ability to look after ones own cooking needs. Besides learning how to read and how be kind and compassionate, I beleive it's one of the greatest tools and gifts we can bestow upon our kids.
It’s a skill that will help them throughout their lives. If your child knows their way around the kitchen, they might just live on something other than pizza and beer during their college years. And, as a bonus, kids who get involved in the cooking process are more likely to be adventurous and try new foods. I mean, who doesn’t want to partake of the food they’ve created? If you’re struggling to get your kid to try that new quinoa salad, get them to help make it. When the food isn’t so foreign, it may not be as scary.
How can my young child help in the kitchen?
Kids can’t do much in the kitchen up to the age of 5 or 6, but they can do SOME things. They’re great at pouring pre-measured ingredients into a bowl and, while you may still have to work out some of the lumps, they can stir or use a hand mixer (with hand-over-hand assistance). When it comes to cooking, they can help wash vegetables and, if you have a garden, they can happily pick some produce to contribute to dinner.
Yes, they’ll likely make a mess. But, they’re also old enough to help clean up the mess. Teach them how to wipe up the things they’ve spilled, and get them to help put away ingredients, dishes, etc.
It’s also a good idea to let them help plan the week’s meals. Let them pick one meal a week, and talk about what things you’ll need to buy to make the meal. Start teaching them how to make that meal - chances are it will stay in their repertoire for a long time. Kids are also amazing helpers in the grocery store when they're given clear directives. Make it a fun adventure. Have them create a list of the things they are responsible for finding and give them a pen to check each item off. Maybe even give them a little clipboard!!
From about 7 to 10, kids can start to find more independence in the kitchen. As they learn to read, they can help read out recipes. Measuring ingredients is a great way to reinforce their school lessons on fractions. They can also start learning to safely use a knife and cut veggies, fruit, etc. Learning how to properly use a knife is an amazing skill that instantly creates Kitchen Confidence. As part of my at-home cooking classes - we always start with the basics of proper knife skills!
Continue letting them help with the meal planning. Have them write shopping lists themselves. As they get older, encourage them to attempt recipes on their own - with supervision, of course. This is a great time to teach them the components of a healthy lunch, and let them make/pack their own. And, best of all, now is the time they can start helping do the dishes!
The Pre/Teen Years
Once your child is in the pre-teen/teenage years, there isn’t much they can’t do. Instead of just picking meals, have them make dinner for the family. You can talk about the components of a healthy meal, and let them put something together.
Look up new recipes you’re both excited to try, and make them as a team. Kids will often talk more about their day if they’re distracted with an activity, so cooking time can also become bonding time, as well.
If you’re looking for something fun to make with kids of any age this summer, try out my Raspberry Nice Cream recipe. It’s delicious, nutritious, and will cool you down on those hot summer days - no oven need apply! Experiment with flavors and, most importantly, have fun!
PS - If you follow me on Instagram you'll also know that I'm head over heels in love with Watermelon Gazpacho right now. It's so easy and another perfect (no oven needed) recipe to make with kids of all ages. There's no wrong way to make it - but if you really need a recipe - feel free to reach out!!!