By the time I was eight years old, I was cooking bacon and eggs in the kitchen by myself. I burned myself a few times, but ultimately it made me more independent in the kitchen. And I’ll nevr forget my mom trusting me to do it and giving me the space to make mistakes (and get hurt when I got burned).
So even before my kids were eight years old, I’d have them help in the kitchen. From making toast, getting their own cereal and milk, baking cookies and cracking eggs, those boys have helped every step of the way. I’d say I have them helping in the kitchen daily.
Now that my oldest is eight years old, I’m letting him cut fruit and vegetables with a regular knife. I’m standing next to him the whole time but I love teaching him the right way to do it. He even came up with his first recipe: Flavored Water with Fresh Fruit. My 6 year old is just too young for that now – but he knows how to make scrambled eggs with cheese from start to finish (including cracking and whisking eggs as well as dishing the finished eggs out of the pan and plating it up).
Getting kids involved in the kitchen does require a bit of letting go (sometimes it takes me nearly an hour to clean up) but in the long run I know they’re learning lifelong skills and picking up healthy habits at the same time.
Tips for Getting Kids Involved in the Kitchen
- Rather than dictate the recipe to make, pick out a recipe together. It will give your kids a chance to peruse through cook books (building literacy skills) or even just discuss options they want to try out. Plus, it makes them feel like they’re a part of the process.
- Ask kids which steps they want to take on. It could be measuring and pouring flour, adding eggs, putting oil in a pan, etc. You can even ask kids to take multiple steps in a recipe and take turns with siblings.
- Let kids sample ingredients if possible. If you’re making banana bread, let them try a piece of banana or walnut. Tasting food is part of the fun and will help to expand their palette.
- Talk about the different ingredients in a recipe. This helps to build their vocabulary and understand where food comes from. I kid you not, there are lots of kids who don’t know what an artichoke is (we eat them at least every two weeks) or where cheese comes from. Talking about food really helps kids understand that it’s better to get food from a natural source vs. something artificial.
- Show kids how to use kitchen tools properly. Even my wild-child middle son can tone down to whisk eggs or a pancake mix without spilling over the edges of the bowl. This will help to build fine motor skills and helps to build confidence and independence.
- If age appropriate, show kids how to use pots, pans, put food into the oven, use a toaster, etc. Show them how to avoid burns and how to cook food safely.
- Show kids how to clean up while or after food is prepared. It could be as simple as putting leftover ingredients away, washing a few dishes, cleaning countertops, or licking a bowl clean (if you’re baking something sweet).
- Teach kids how to serve meals in appropriate portions. This really helps kids to understand portion control and good manners.
Do your kids like to cook or get involved in the kitchen? What are your favorite tips?
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