In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to view cooking as a means to an end – something we have to do to get food on the table. But the process of cooking a meal can be a fun and educational family activity, and a rewarding time spent together.
Getting kids involved in the kitchen is part of instilling healthy habits that they will carry throughout life as they learn to select and prepare healthy ingredients at home. Studies have also shown that kids are more likely to try something new if they are involved in choosing or preparing the food.
Try these 10 Ways to Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen tonight:
- Safety first – The kitchen can be full of potential dangers, but that doesn’t mean children can’t participate. Always monitor children closely while in the kitchen. Before you get started, warn them about hot surfaces and sharp knives, and give frequent reminders – kids have short attention spans! Teach children to wash their hands for 20 seconds, or sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Playtime before dinnertime – While you’re busy cooking, little ones can play in the kitchen. Spatulas, spoons, pots and foods such as oranges and onions can be fun toys. Just be sure to avoid items with sharp edges or choking hazards.
- Plan it out – Involve your kids in meal planning. Try allowing each child to pick a favorite meal each week, or mix in favorite ingredients, like your child’s favorite vegetable, on a regular basis. Older children can select new recipes from cookbooks or magazines to try.
- Grocery shopping secretary – Give your child reign over the shopping list during your next shopping trip. Let them cross off each ingredient along the way and discuss which ingredient is found in which section of the store.
- Mise en place (“everything in it’s place”) – When you’re ready to start cooking, have your child read the recipe. Next, let them get out all of the necessary ingredients so they’re ready to go. This is a great time to talk about the food groups, where ingredients are stored, and their health value.
- Prep is key – Depending on your child’s age, they can help with various prep tasks, including washing fresh produce, cutting and chopping ingredients, shredding and grating, mashing, cracking and separating eggs, tearing lettuce leaves, removing herbs from stems, and snapping asparagus.
- Measure it out – Let you child measure ingredients. Use the opportunity to teach older children the difference between dry ingredient and liquid measuring cups.
- Mix it up – Kids love stirring, whisking, folding, beating, and blending.
- Add, subtract, multiply, and divide – Ask your child to help calculate cooking times and convert or combine ingredient amounts. Cooking is a practical application of the math skills they learn in the classroom.
- Set up and clean up – Let you child set the table. Teach them the correct placement of the plates, silverware, and napkins. When the meal is over, they can help clear the table, wash dishes, place garbage in the trash, and put away clean dishes.
Most of all, don’t forget to encourage your children and thank them for their help. They will undoubtedly make a mess and spill things and get eggshells in the cookie dough. But the skills that they learn through the process and the time you spend together is worth a little mess, don’t you think?
What are your favorite ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Leave a comment below or tweet your ideas to @emeals.
Need some inspiration? Check out these kid-friendly recipes:
Whole Wheat Pizzas: let the kids roll out pizza dough
Chocolate-Covered Strawberries: kids with love dipping fresh fruit in chocolate