What do you think of when you hear the phrase getting kids in the kitchen? For most parents, it means two things—endless messes and frustration. You want your kids to learn to cook, but if it’s as easy as handing them an apron and pointing them towards the food, why aren’t they doing it? The answer lies in how you approach it. Getting kids in the kitchen can be intimidating and frustrating if you go about it the wrong way, but taking the time to prepare yourself beforehand will make things easier for everyone involved.
Your child’s development continues well into their teenage years, and getting them involved in household chores from an early age will make their transition to living on their own after graduation much smoother than if they didn’t know how to do these things as kids. The kitchen can be overwhelming for anyone the first time around, but there are plenty of ways to introduce your child to this space without filling them with anxiety and dread! By involving your child from a young age, you are telling them that yes, they can do it too!
The kitchen can be an intimidating place for young children, but it doesn’t have to be. With some patience and creativity, you can get even the youngest of kids involved in cooking and learning valuable skills that will last them a lifetime. Let’s look at how to start getting kids in the kitchen and why it matters.
Start with simple tasks
The kitchen is where most of us spend the majority of our time cooking and cleaning and doing a million other chores that keep our homes running smoothly. It’s easy to see why you might think letting your child help out would be beneficial, but you might also be worried about how safe it really is and how much of a mess they will make. The truth is, involving your child in the kitchen can be very beneficial to their growth and development, as long as you take some time to set them up for success with these simple steps and ideas. But before you introduce your little one to the specifics of the kitchen routine, you should make sure that everything is reachable for your toddler: from uncooked goods on the counter and shelves in the fridge to the sink where they can pour liquids from one bowl to another or wash fruits and vegetables before preparing them for the meal. For these, look for the Montessori tower, which is also well known as a kitchen helper - special step-stool designed in accordance with the Montessori method to help your children be there for you in the cooking routine.
Find a child-friendly recipe
Once you get all your ingredients, dish, and utensils ready, place a clean apron on your child. Most kid recipes require little to no prepping work so now is an excellent time to get your child involved with slicing veggies or using an apple corer. Your little chef will enjoy breaking up breadcrumbs and measuring ingredients. Every partof cooking is an important job that everyone has!
It’s easy to get lost in chopping onions or making sure everything stays warm while stirring. Make sure each person knows what their role is before starting the cooking process so they can help as much as possible. When there are multiple children in the kitchen, make sure they are split into teams based on dish duty and chore responsibilities.
Have Fun With It
It’s true: cooking with children can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience, but it doesn’t have to be this disturbing kind of activity. Practicing cooking with children is one of the best ways to inspire a lifetime love for cooking. Plus, it helps to teach your children practical, everyday life skills like following instructions, time management, counting and measuring, sorting out ingredients by type or size. They will learn so much! And, of course, you will have a lot of fun too as you work together on this hands-on project. The most important thing to remember when getting kids involved in cooking is to start small and focus on having fun with it!
Reward Their Efforts
When you are opening to the new experience, you look up for the feedback on your actions. The same behavior issue applies to the kids. It is the subconscious desire for praise when something is done well. So, do not forget to tell your children how much they have helped you out and how great they have been with that specific task you have given them. You can even reward their efforts with a piece of whatever they helped you cook, like an apple to dip in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Kids are proud of themselves when they make something tasty all by themselves!
Have A Plan For Messes
Don't be afraid to teach children safety measures or use a small and safe cutting instrument like a slicer. You can teach them how to cut vegetables, and you can use this time as an opportunity to provide hands-on learning opportunities while they're still young and happy to listen. If they make a mess while helping you to cook, it is totally okay! Sometimes it is more difficult than you think, but the most important thing is to not give up and to get back up again when you do slip up. Your reaction to the mess is the only thing that can scare the kid from the kitchen for years. So, the best thing to do is to laugh it all out, add some mess on your own, clean everything up and talk about what and why happened together.
So, here goes the key points
- Make sure that your child knows to use sharp utensils properly, and always let them know what you are doing with knives so that they don't start reaching out blindly.
- Try not to focus on making every single step an educational experience for kids, but remember that as you work with them and share information about what you're doing, that will go a long way towards them picking up life skills.
- If a child is helping out with prepping ingredients, try giving them simple tasks like using a food processor or cutting veggies and fruits into slices. By giving kids these tasks, you allow them to learn how to use a certain cooking tool properly and safely while getting hands-on experience with different foods or ingredients.
- If a child does end up making a mess with the food or in the kitchen, then take some time to talk about what happened together.