Almost every time Julia sees me in the kitchen getting ready to cook dinner or make bread or do dishes, she squeals, “Bring chair over!” This means she is going to bring a kitchen chair over to the counter and be Mommy’s Helper. At first having a sous chef was really fun for both of us. I thought, “Oh! She’s learning! We’re bonding! I’m 100% sure she’s not getting into my makeup right now!”
Even though it can take five times longer than just doing it yourself, I encourage you to cook with your kiddos and see what you and they can learn.
Tips for Cooking with Your Kids
- Choose a simple and familiar recipe. If you have made the recipe before, or have read through it a few times, you’ll be more confident teaching it to them.
- Explain why you are doing every step. Even though they might not understand the purpose of flour or yeast, talking to them keeps them engaged in the cooking, and less likely to get bored and start eating the salt or pouring random ingredients into the bowl.
- Relax. This isn’t rocket science. Slightly mismeasuring won’t hurt the recipe too badly, and the time spent with kiddo is more important than the result. Getting frustrated with them for eating some of the salt, drinking the premeasured water, or spilling the flour will just make him or her uptight and impatient with cooking in the future. If you are cooking something to share with people you want to impress, wait until naptime.
- Be clean and safe. Obviously, make sure all knives, moving mixers, hot burners, and any other dangers are out of reach. Every time Julia sees a knife she says, “Danger! Only Mommy or Daddy touch!” Wash hands, because of course practicing hygienic habits is very important.
- Encourage them to count out measurements. My daughter is still learning how to count to ten. Her counting sequence changes every day, but this morning it was “one, two, three, six, seven.” Four and five usually get left out, but we’re practicing. Later she will learn about the difference between cup and teaspoon measures, liquid and dry measures, fractions, and how to half, double, or triple a recipe. (I’m horrible at math, but good at fractions, thanks to my Mom having me make double batches of cookies when I was a kid!)
- Let them help clean up. It’s part of the process. It might be easier for you just to do the dishes on your own, but having them see the entire process of cooking from start to finish gives them a great appreciation for the end result.
Although she’s only two, I can predict some benefits of cooking with Julia. She will grow to appreciate where her food comes from. She’ll know that food doesn’t magically appear on her plate; it takes effort and time to prepare. When she sees me getting the flour and yeast out, she knows it’s bread making time. Since she has helped make it, she’s more likely to eat it, although I’m not sure she gets the connection between preparation and dinner time yet.
Finally, Mommy and Julia are both learning how to be patient. She has to wait for me to tell her when it’s her turn to pour in the ingredients, and she has to understand when it’s not safe to help. Yes, sometimes I would rather just do it myself, but it is more “adventurous” cooking with my toddler. Seeing the cooking process through her two-year-old eyes gives me a fresh perspective on everything I do in the kitchen, and well, in life too.
Do you have any other tips for cooking with your kids? Feel free to add them below. I sure could use some more ideas!