Getting Kids in the Kitchen...
The world today is filled with technology from the day a child is born. When we were young, we had to go to an arcade or invite friends over to play on an old game console if we wanted a technology fix. Now, tablets and phones can be handed over in an instant! But sometimes, going back to the basics can be the best way to connect with your children. Spending an afternoon or evening with your kids in the kitchen creates the opportunity to bond, learn more about each other, and even boost confidence. But sometimes that's easier said than done, isn't it?
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My kids are picky eaters, and if you are a parent, I'm sure you can probably relate. Dinner time is challenging, to say the least. Sometimes I feel frustrated just heading to the kitchen. One thing that has worked wonders for my family is cooking together.
Here are ten important and helpful points to get your kids involved with you in the kitchen, having fun and learning lifelong skills:
Think back to your childhood memories.
What stands out that made being in the kitchen with your own mom, dad, or grandparent so special? Was it because it was OK to make a mess, or is there a special recipe you got to help with? Maybe you always wore a chef hat when you cooked. You can recreate that with your children and see it passed on.
Come up with age appropriate tasks.
There are plenty of levels of cooking! Just like a real chef might work up from the ranks of dish washing to prep, then line cook and so on, your kids can take different approaches as they get more comfortable in the kitchen. Maybe your four years old can’t help with the stove or cutting and dicing, but if you empty the sink and pull over a chair, they can wash some dishes while you cook (yes, you’ll probably want to rewash them afterward). If it helps you can use some fun tools like shaped sponges or fun aprons to help your kiddos have fun.
Most important is to remember to LET them help in some way.
They won’t remember watching what you’re doing nearly as much as they remember what you did together. There’s always something the kids can help with, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer than usual. Maybe they'll like to have their own set of tools so they can work alongside you.
Make a new tradition!
It’s great to recreate traditions from your childhood, but it’s even better to make a brand new one that’s special. Maybe it’s sneaking a taste of every food and making it a “secret.” Perhaps finding a recipe for a dessert you both love. They’re sure to remember it if you keep it up!
Keep the kitchen clean.
Your kids can help put things where they go or be put on wipe down duty. It will be easier for everyone to find what you need (if the kids put the measuring cups away, they’ll be happy to get them for you next time you cook!), it will be a less stressful environment, and it will be easier to keep clean.
Kids need consistency, it’s how they learn. You might have made a certain dish so many times its second nature and you don’t need any help. But they haven’t, and they’ll pick up a new little bit of information every time they help. So make sure they help regularly, and if possible, give them a consistent “job” in the kitchen, even something as simple as stirring a mix. They’ll be a pro at it in no time, and they’ll love having a routine with you.
Make recipe cards, and let the kids pick sometimes.
You can make cards for an entire meal, or make a mix and match cards where they can choose the entree and then also pick from different sides (especially helpful if you have multiple kids, they each pick a part of the meal). Since you make the cards, their choices are limited, but they’ll feel like they’re making an important and valuable decision.
Make a checklist of ingredients needed, and take the kids grocery shopping. Lead them to the area and let them help you find the items you need. Make sure to take a pen so they can check items off on the list! (TIP: If your child can’t read, write the list and add a small picture of the item next to it. They’ll know what to get, and might learn some words while they’re at it)
Pass on life skills.
As they progress in their ability to help, getting kids in the kitchen won’t just teach kids how to cook. They’ll learn multi-tasking as they watch a pan while prepping aside while cleaning dishes as they’re finishing. They’ll also learn to schedule as they eventually have to ensure four different foods with different cooking times all get done simultaneously, and they’ll learn teamwork, the importance of cleaning up after themselves, and gain confidence knowing they will be able to cook for their children one day, too.
Enjoy one on one time.
Life is hectic. Sometimes it’s hard to have quality time with each other, between school, work, friends and relatives, appointments, and alone time. But you have to eat! Skipping the take-out and cooking together gives you that quality time that might otherwise get overlooked. And the more you cook together, the more likely you are to sit down and eat together, too!
So get those kids into the kitchen with you! It’s ok if you don’t know what you’re doing yet - they don’t know either! Grab a cookbook or some online lessons, start with simple things like microwave brownies in a mug or fruit cup, and cherish that quality time. And you’ll be happy to know, the more the kids help choose and prepare their meals, the less they object to eating them. Because, after all, they are the chef!
These are some great tools for engaging kids in the kitchen...