Cooking with Kids: 5 ways to make the process part of the FUN!

Kids Cook Summer 2018

Cooking with Kids: 5 ways to make the process part of the FUN!

The kitchen is a place where children can learn math skills, practice fine-motor
coordination, make choices about nutrition, and of course, learn basic cooking techniques. It’s a place where memories are made and recipes become treasured family secrets.

1. Measure and Pour
The youngest kids can practice their counting skills as they level and pour wet and dry ingredients. When they reach about 4 or 5 years let them scoop and level using the straight edge of a butter knife. School-age children are ready to learn conversion and use the scale. Continue confirming the basics of culinary terms including cup, teaspoon and tablespoon throughout all ages.

 

2. Stirring, Mixing and Beating
The youngest can practice stirring batters and dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Preschool age will be anxious to use a fork or whisk for whipping things like whipped cream. Taste tests are also mandatory at this age! This is the perfect time to teach them how to scrape the bowl too! The school-age children can begin using electric beaters and small appliances as well as learn how to fold ingredients into bowls.

 

3. Preparing Menu and Ingredients
Little ones have a better chance of trying new foods and having a more diverse palate if they are able to see, feel and use simple ingredients and turn them into something beautiful and delicious. The youngest can grab the items from the refrigerator or pantry and help you gather everything to start prepping. Set the stool up to the sink and have them rinse off fruit and vegetables, since they love to play in the water anyways! Preschool age can tear the lettuce for the salad, crack some eggs (wash those hands and probably the table after, too), use a plastic knife to cut strawberries, potatoes or bread. If you feel your school ager can handle the next stage of a knife then try it out with them. Be sure to teach them about the basics of cutting techniques and knife safety. Make rules and stick to them!

 

4. Setting the Table and Serving
It’s so wonderful to see the gleam in their eyes when you give simple tasks that turn into responsibilities. Start them young with carrying dinner plates and silverware to the table. Preschoolers can help set the table with napkins and cutlery in the correct place. They can try making signs for all of the family members, since they like telling us what to do at this age anyways!

School age children can help dish out the entrées and sides. Teach them about different utensils and tools and find ways they can use them. Now the fun part is to start letting them menu plan!

 

5. Most Importantly, Cleanup!
Give the smaller ones a brush or dustpan, or paper towels for that egg that is still on the table when they tried to crack it! Get them to sort silverware back into drawers if not used. The preschoolers want to spray and wipe everything so let them at it! Let them Swiffer the floor and put the leftover food away. The school age children are ready to wash dishes and load the dishwasher. Let them think it’s a puzzle and see if everything can fit and still get clean at the same time!

For all ages:
Continue to reinforce these skills and habits by making the process fun and praising their independence.

Teach good hygiene. Make sure they wash hands, pull hair back, and keep hands away from faces.

Things to chew on:

Patience. Cook with your children when you have time to be patient. You want them to associate family cooking as a fun activity with positive feelings, not anxiety and impatience.

Relax. Kids (and adults!) are messy and kitchens are messy. It works. Just don’t freak out about some spills or flour clouds. They are learning life skills by watching how you deal with things as well.

Praise and Ownership. Let them know during preparation and during dinner time how great of a job they did and for helping in the kitchen! Give them their own apron or maybe a recipe box where they can write their own recipes!