As parents we often send our kids off to play or some other task to keep themselves busy while we take care of our own chores, such as making dinner. Who wants little fingers around sharp knives or toys left on the floor while you’re pulling a pan out of the oven, right? For some of us cooking is a hobby and for others it’s a dreaded chore, but either way we don’t want to be disturbed. While that makes sense, there’s a flip side to the story.
Home is most likely the only place kids have a chance to learn the basics of cooking and kitchen safety. It’s time to get kids in the kitchen to help out and learn some life skills while they’re at it. Simple things, like frying an egg or boiling pasta, will become valuable skills when a child leaves home and ventures out on their own. The alternative is a steady stream of fast food and frozen entrees. We need to empower our children to make better food choices and part of that is knowing their way around the kitchen. If we’re lucky, some may even find they enjoy experimenting with new recipes and become a regular part of family meal prep.
So, what can you do to get kids involved in the kitchen? Firstly, don’t push the idea as a chore or make them help every night. They will quickly get bored or not want to take part. Approach it as a fun activity since cooking is really a lot like performing a science experiment. Secondly, put them in charge as much as possible once they learn a few basics. Taking ownership of a task is often a good form of motivation. Being in charge of making their own lunch gives kids some control and also cuts your workload, which is a win-win situation. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Kitchen Tasks for Kids
- Start with recipes that involve measuring and mixing or other easy hands-on activity that doesn’t involve knife work. For example, pre-chop items then put them in charge of assembling tacos or salads for a family dinner. They can add even more fun by taking orders.
- Have kids help plan the weekly menu and grocery list, then take them shopping so they can see where everything comes from at the store.
- Show how to prep ingredients for a recipe and how to follow the instructions, then put them in charge of organizing and measuring.
- Teach basic food safety, such as the importance of clean hands and surfaces, knife skills, and proper stove/oven use.
- Explain how to use spices and herbs to make foods taste better and let them practice. You may have to deal with some over-seasoned dishes at first.
- When comfortable enough, practice knife work or cooking.
A good book for getting kids interested in cooking is the Disney Princess Cookbook. My daughter loves the chicken soup, which is an excellent starter recipe with minimal chopping and the rest is assembly. Let your child decide which vegetables and noodles to add for a splash of independence. The book is filled with great tips for beginning cooks and a variety of recipes for any taste. It’s a best seller on Amazon.com.
Learning to cook is like anything else; you may get off to a great start but practice pays off. Use this as a chance to get your kids see cooking as a family or social activity and you’ll be rewarded with young adults who want to cook and try new foods. As always, remember to have fun! Have any good tips to share with our readers? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below or on our social media channels.