One of my favorite things to do is cook with my boys! I can’t tell you the number of times they’ve come up with some pretty brilliant ideas for new recipes, or ways to enhance an existing recipe. Cooking together gives us time to talk, laugh and accomplish something together as a team – it’s good quality bonding time and it’s educational too!
For busy moms, I know time is limited, but here are just a few of the many reasons why spending the extra time to get your kids in the kitchen with you is so valuable. I encourage you to read my post on Why Kids Belong in the Kitchen for more important facts about why cooking with your children is so valuable.
- Got a picky eater? Kids are more likely to eat what they make, so getting them involved in making a healthy meal, will give you a better shot at them actually eating it. You can also use this time together to lay a solid foundation by talking about healthy food basics – but don’t just lecture, seek their thoughts and opinions and help steer them toward understanding the “whys and hows” of making nutritious choices.
- Kids are naturally creative and like to be helpful (especially when they’re little). Once they begin experiencing the accomplishment of making a meal that everyone enjoys, they will begin to take pride in their effort. And eventually, they may actually discover they have a passion for cooking.
- Kids need to learn how to prepare healthy homecooked food. It’s important for both girls and boys to learn how a meal is created from start to finish, so they can do it themselves as they get older and eventually leave home. It will be an invaluable skill you are teaching them – one that they will use the rest of their lives.
- The kitchen is a wonderful classroom! Kids learn so many important skills in the kitchen – including math skills, following directions, time-management and organization – the lessons are endless and are of great value!
- Be realistic! It’s important to be realistic in your expectations of this time together. Plan the cooking session with your child in mind – what his/her interests are, attention-span, skill level, etc. By taking time to think this through and plan an age-appropriate cooking session, you’ll have much more success at making it fun and interesting for your child. And the more fun it is, the more you both will enjoy this time to together! Curious about which kitchen activities are age-approriate? Be sure to download my FREE “Cooking with Kids of All Ages” printable. It not only contains lots of ideas for developmentally appropriate kitchen activities, but also contains some great ideas for making mealtimes fun!
- Be sure to schedule it on your meal plan! Plan time for cooking with your kiddos on a day when you’ll have extra time to spare – being in a rush and cooking with kids is a recipe for disaster (pun intended).
- Start off with an easy recipe – have them watch you do one of the tasks first, then help them do it once, then let them do it by themselves. When getting started, focus on age-appropriate fun tasks – anything that needs to be shaken, stirred, mashed – kids love that!
- Keep the time short and sweet (especially for little ones). Be sensitive to your child’s age- and personality-related attention span. For little ones, it’s important to have all of the ingredients ready ahead of time, so they don’t have to sit and watch you get everything prepared, but can instead immediately jump in and participate. After they’ve accomplished the age-appropriate tasks you planned out (or if you notice boredom setting in) thank them for helping you, and let them run off to play while you finish the meal. You can slowly build from there – increasing the time spent and the skills they learn – to the point where they’re eventually helping you execute an entire meal from start to finish. And of course, my dream is when they can completely take on a meal without my help at all – definitely something to look forward to! Even the most passionate chef enjoys handing over the apron every now and then!
From there, we slowly progressed based on their age and abilities to include more and bigger tasks – adding ingredients, measuring out ingredients, reading and following a recipe, and right now, they are learning how to properly use a knife and how to safely cook on the stovetop, always under very careful supervision, of course. As they get older, my goal is to have them begin cooking some of their own favorite lunches and then as noted above, taking on dinner for the entire family by themselves – that will be awesome!
One of our favorite resources for tips, recipes and overall step-by-step instructions for age-appropriate cooking, is a wonderful eBook by my friend Wardee called “Real Food Kids in the Kitchen.” I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a comprehensive and FUN guide to getting their kids into cooking and eating real food.
A little extra time and mess are worth it!
One more thing, if you decide to do this, be prepared for extra time and extra mess – but think big picture and don’t get discouraged! Remember, this is so much more than just teaching them valuable cooking and healthy eating skills, it’s about sharing and enjoying time together! Your patience and joy in having them in the kitchen will be blessed!
Disclosure: I make a small commission if you opt to purchase the “Real Food Kids in the Kitchen” eBook using the links above. All commissions help to support the many free resources available here at The Nourishing Home!