With camps canceled, not all pools are opening (or with limited capacity), and fewer playdates than usual, keeping kids occupied can be challenging. To keep them from asking what’s to eat, get them in the kitchen. Cooking teaches math skills, lets kids learn how food gets to the table, and creates valuable memories. But… depending on their age there can be some challenges. Here are a few tips to help ensure cooking is a fun family activity.
1. Explain kitchen basics (like cleaning hands) and how them how to turn appliances on (but you do it). Point out how handles should be turned away so they hot pan isn’t knocked over. What oven mitts are. Explain what’s ok to touch and what’s not (like avoid hot stove and electric beaters while on).
2. Purchase kid-safe knives. Adult knives are sharp. Depending on the age of your children, there are different kid-friendly knives that will be easier for them to use. While they may not be able to cut a watermelon, then can slice softer items like cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, etc.
3. Cook from an age-appropriate cookbook. Depending on your child, purchase a cookbook geared towards their age. Let them skim through and choose what they’d like to make. Then, they’re invested in the activity before it begins.
4. Prepare a simple recipe. Don’t have cookbooks at home? No problem! Prepare an easy recipe relevant to their skills and comprehension. Something as easy as a quesadilla where a small kid has to sprinkle cheese has just the same reward in a small child as baking a cake does for a teenager.
5. Gather ingredients and utensils. Things will go much smoother if you gather all the ingredients prior to preparing the recipe. Have measuring spoons, bowls (larger than usual is better), mixers, etc. handy so you’re not searching for something while in the middle of cooking. Focusing on the kids during cooking is key to their safety.
6. Make sure the work area is kid-friendly. Bring a bench or step stool over if necessary to make sure kids are able to reach the counter.
7. Let them clean and prep produce. Kids can easily pick basil leaves, shell peas, remove husks from corn, wash berries, peel potatoes, etc. While prepping, talk about how fruits and vegetables are grown.
8. Ask questions and engage in conversations while cooking. If making homemade pizza, talk about how pizza originated in Italy (a fun geography lesson). Have kids measure ingredients and they’re unknowingly learning math. Let them read the recipe out loud while cooking to help with reading skills.
9. Make sure they help with clean up. Cleaning is just as important as making the recipe. If you have a dishwasher, let the kids help load it. Washing by hand? They can help with non-breakable dishes or give them safe items to dry (like small dishes or spoons). They’ll unknowingly be doing chores and also learning clean dishes don’t magically appear.
10. Don’t stress and have patience. Things are going to get spilled. Kids are not going to do thinks like you would. And, it will take twice as long to prepare the recipe. The smiles on the kids face while cooking is worth it though.
If we’ve inspired you to get into the kitchen with the kids, here are a few easy kid-friendly recipes to try.