Cooking With Kids

On cold, chilly days, nothing is better than cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The inviting aromas and the resplendent warmth from the oven fill the kitchen with a soothing tranquility that serves as a respite from the bitter outdoors. And you know you’re not the only one to rejoice in this sublime feeling; your children sit around the kitchen table enjoying everything you whip up. Instead of having them just sit there, though, let them join in on preparing your favorite winter recipes!

Why Cooking is Good For You (and Your Kids)
It’s never too soon to learn how to cook. Cooking is a necessary life skill that everyone needs to be taught. Unfortunately, with today’s busy world, more and more people are relying on store-bought, microwaveable meals or take-out meals. While these are great in a pinch, nothing beats a proper home-cooked meal. So give your children the opportunity to learn the value making their own food.

Cooking also teaches children many other important skills. Adjusting measurements helps with math skills, while reading the recipes aids in developing language skills. As they put together their own meals, your children can also learn about nutrition. Allowing them to prepare a meal will help your kids gain some time management skills as well. Organization is always a great talent to have and, let’s face it, you need to be organized if you’re going to do some cooking.

Don’t worry about it if you’re not a master chef yourself. There is a plethora of cookbooks available today aimed at novice cookers as well as easy-to-follow children’s cookbooks. The recipes and tips in these books are just as applicable to you as they are to your children. And rest assured, as you and your children cook more, you’ll get better at it. In fact, once your children are old enough and their skills are sufficient, you can always put them in charge of making dinner once a week. Kids cooking gives you a break and helps them learn to take responsibility for the running of the household.

Safety First
Before you and your children start any delicious creations, make sure you go over the cooking safety rules each and every time.

  • Always wash your hands before you start cooking or baking. Also, tie back your hair (nobody likes finding a hairy surprise in their food!)
  • Don’t point or gesture with a knife. If you’re walking with a knife, keep it by your side and pointed down
  • Children under age seven should not use the stove. Older children should only use the stove when a parent is nearby to supervise. Always keep all pot handles turned in, away from where little hands can reach them
  • If you touch raw meat or eggs, wash your hands before you touch anything else (and especially before you put your hands in your mouth)
  • Kids under age five should stick to wooden or plastic utensils (which are perfect for stirring baked goods). Older children should always have a parent nearby when they use more "grown-up" utensils
  • Avoid giving cheese graters to children. It’s easy enough for adults to grate their fingers; it’s even easier for children to do it
  • Never leave children unattended in the kitchen

Dishing Up Some Interest
There are many different things you can do to help get your children interested in cooking to chase their winter blues away.

  • Let your kids pick the recipe to bake or plan the meal to cook. You might find yourself eating hotdogs with pound cake on the side, but boy will they be excited to make it!
  • Once you know what you’ll be making, let your children help you find the ingredients in the house. Have them make a list of any missing ingredients and then take a trip together to the store to pick up what you need
  • It’s never fun to cook on an empty stomach but you don’t want to spoil your appetite, either. So, before you get started, have a light snack. Vegetable sticks or some fruit are a great option
  • Consider setting up a kid-friendly cooking station so that your children can work at a table on their level and so you don’t have to worry about them losing their balance while standing on a chair
  • To help your child with his reading skills, have him read aloud each step as it comes up. If you’re cooking with more than one child, slip in a lesson on sharing and cooperation by having them take turns reading the steps
  • Make the preparation tasks age appropriate. A two-year-old can do wonders mixing with a spoon but should never have their hands anywhere near a blender. Delegate the cooking tasks among your children to whichever job is best suited for their age
  • Find fun ways to make the food and the job more appealing. Giving silly names to different foods is one tactic kids just relish. Using non-traditional utensils, like a cookie cutter on a sandwich, is a great way to liven up otherwise plain food
  • Be prepared to get messy. Cooking is never a neat endeavor and with kids it’s even less so
  • Clean-up should also be a part of the cooking routine that your kids help out with. You can make the job less overwhelming by putting ingredients away as you use them

Sweet Treats
Baking is a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen. Even a young toddler can help by decorating some cookies or a cake. To make sure your children’s baking always comes out at its best, make sure you use the middle oven rack unless the recipe tells you to do otherwise. Using the freshest ingredients that are at room temperature (unless the recipe calls for something else) will bring out the essence of your baked goods.

Now that you and your children have created a masterpiece, it’s time to enjoy. So sit down together at the table and let the cold winter day be all but forgotten in the warmth of your kitchen.