Tips for Cooking with Kids

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Tips for Cooking with Kids

Cooking or baking sounds like the perfect way to spend some quality time bonding with kids, right?  I had a breakthrough this week which inspired this post on tips for cooking with kids I wanted to share with you.

I’ve always had this romanticized idea about cooking with my children. We excitedly pick a recipe, and they carefully pour, stir, and measure. They wash their hands before and after they cook.  They clean up their messes.  We set the timer and anxiously watch our food bake or cook. And, then we enjoy our delicious creation together.

Reality is, things can get messy and it rarely (never) goes down that way.  Yes, things can get messy, but if you embrace that aspect, it can actually be part of the fun.

The reality…

Here’s what typically happens in my house.

The kids race to wash their hands.  Soap misses the hands.  They fight over who gets to stand on the step stool at the counter (and I remind them that we have two step stools).  They fight about who gets to open the refrigerator (and cupboards) to get the ingredients. They fight over who gets to hold the recipe or mixture box.  One of them inevitably breaks an egg.

As I’m cleaning that up, scobbling ensues.  One gets mad and stomps off.  The other one fights to dump more ingredients in the bowl.  Mommy gets frustrated and tells the remaining kid to go play while she cleans up.  No food is actually made in this situation.  Only a sink full of dishes and a frazzled mama remains.

My tips for cooking with kids…

I finally wised up and these are some things I learned.

Tip – Let them help pick the dish to cook.

I took both kids shopping and let them pick out muffins (pre-mixed) to bake.  I figured this would be a super easy, super fail-proof place to start.  A pre-mixed muffin mix with three added ingredients.  Check.

Tip – Get a set of ingredients for each kid.

Instead of fighting over taking turns with one dish, I decided to let each kid have their own cooking “station.”  I set up two sets of ingredients and cooking utensils at the kitchen table for both kids.  No step stools.  They each got to sit in their own kitchen table chair. (Why didn’t I think of this earlier?!).

Tip – Set up a cooking “class” environment. 

I told the kids that this was cooking “class.”  My 1st grader read the ingredients, instructions, and made accordingly.  I helped my preschooler look at the pictures of the ingredients, and helped him measure.  And I pretty much gave them total control over the process for each of their own batches of muffins.  The result?  They each felt super special and accomplsihed.

Tip – Let them get MESSY.

Yep, by giving them control over the process, egg shells will mix into the batter.  Oil will be over-measured.  Drips, spills, crumbs.  You name it.  And, it’s okay.  Let it happen.  For some moms, this is totally not a big deal.  For me, I have to intentionally take a step back and let them learn to “cook” and be in charge of their own process.

Tips for Cooking with Kids_2 (This is a picture of my four-year-old’s cinnamon muffin mix.  Wow.  But, he had fun!!!).

Tip – Teach them to clean up.

Part of cooking is cleaning up the mess.  Give them paper towels and wipes, and ask them to each clean up their cooking class work station.  Have them put leftover ingredients away.  Have them help carry dishes to the sink…and for older kids, have them help wash them.

Tip – Let them put their cooking creation in their own labeled Tupperware.

Remember how we talked about them making a big mess?  Who knows how their lovely finished “product” will turn out.  But, no matter what, they will be SO proud of themselves.  Praise them!  As long as it is (somewhat) edible, let them eat it. If they like it, put it in their own Tupperware or baggie…and label it with their name. That way they can munch on it, and it’s theirs.

Do you cook with your kids?  What are your tips to making it fun (and easy)??  Share below!

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