Mar29

Top 10 Tips for Cooking with the Kiddos

Kids definitely love to play, both at the playground and in the kitchen. Get them involved in meal prep and you’ll not only be teaching them a lifelong skill, but you’ll help them become healthier, more adventurous eaters. Not to mention cooking together can be a great creative outlet, mean more family bonding time, and provide you with a sous chef to help put dinner on the table! We are all about helping you and your family enjoy cooking, and have some great tips for you to follow.

1. Start while you’re shopping

Talk to your kids about ingredients you purchase at the grocery store and how you plan to use them. Visit a farm or farmer’s market for seasonal produce and to show them where foods really come from. Let them pick out things they’re interested in to get them excited about cooking and trying new foods.

2. Stay safe

Point out “hot spots” like the flame on the stove, pots with boiling liquids in them, and how to use oven mitts to touch hot things. Show kids how dangerous sharp knives and tools are, and be clear about what they can and cannot touch. Go over basic kitchen hygiene like hand washing, pulling hair back, and avoiding double dipping so everyone stays healthy.

3. Create a kid-friendly vibe

Add a slip-proof step stool or set up a workspace at a low table kids can reach. Stock up on some “just for me” kid sized tools, aprons, and easy read measuring cups and spoons. Mixing bowls with rubber bottoms and non-slip cutting boards are two other great ideas. Lay out an easy-to-clean tablecloth to make things easier for you, and keep dishtowels at the ready for spills.

4. Keep your expectations in check

This tip may be the toughest! Go into a cooking session with your little one expecting more mess, tasks taking way longer than they should, and kids wanting to rush ahead and skip directions. Your dish may wind up a disaster, but your proud junior chef won’t care one bit! Yes. This requires major patience, but the payoff will be worth it.

5. Recipes 101

Show them how a recipe is written and how to follow one. Let younger kids pick recipes by picture, get them their own cookbooks, and flip through yours with them story time style.

6. Measurement 101

Show kids how to play a matching game between a recipe ingredient lists and measuring cup markings. Make it a game each time you cook. Have them show you which tool to use to measure what…and let them have at it!

7. Keep your mess in place

Pull out all the ingredients needed for a recipe to have at the ready. Teach kids to organize pre-measured ingredients into small bowls in French “mise en place” (or as some chefs joke, “mess in place.”) Bonus tip: This helps grownup chefs too!

8. Let ‘em get their hands dirty

Now you really need to step back a little. Based on your child’s age, interest, and ability level, go ahead and let ‘em crack that egg, stir the soup, toss the salad, whisk together the batter, rinse veggies in a colander. Even the youngest chefs can help chop semi-soft ingredients with a plastic knife or butter knife. Think age appropriate but challenging.

9. Play with toys

Kids of all ages love when “toys” are incorporated into cooking, be it a rolling pin, blender, hand mixer, cookie cutters or more complicated gadgets like ice cream makers, pasta machines, stand mixers, food processors, and so forth.

10. Tinker and taste

Once your kids get the hang of things, let them sample ingredients, experiment with putting together different combinations, and obviously enjoy and share their final masterpieces.

Above and Beyond all? Make it fun! Remember your child learns through play, so relax and enjoy playing with them in the kitchen, too.

Julie Hartigan

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is a recovering engineer turned chef. She develops recipes and writes about cooking, entertaining, and health for Bed Bath & Beyond, WeightWatchers, FitPregnancy, and others, looking for the spot "where Healthy meets Happy." Julie shares a small urban condo with her 2 little girls, 2 chubby guinea pigs, and 1 very patient husband. You can find her on Twitter @cookingwjulie.

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