If you subscribe to any parenting magazine or even occasionally read a mommy blog, then you have heard that cooking with kids is considered to be a great bonding and educational activity for all involved.
It also is a test in patience, cleaning skills and (did I mention?) patience.
Isaac has always been eager to join me in the kitchen, especially when any sort of baking is involved. Lately Miss E. has been my cooking buddy, always wanting to help me with supper in the evenings.
She is in full question-mode lately and asks at least five questions about every step of cooking. She wants to know why eggs come in shells, why we do not eat the shells and why the shells crack in fifty pieces rather than just two like in books.
In my short years of having a mini sous chef at my side, here are a few tips I have gathered when cooking with children.
Cooking with kids can be stressful…but only as much as the parent allows. When one of my kids joins me in the kitchen, I try to remember that the cooking process is going to be longer, messier, louder and more complicated than when I cook by myself. I also try to remind myself that if I want my child to know how to cook more than a peanut butter sandwich when I send them off to college, I need to start teaching them how to cook now. Before starting to cook with a child, take a deep breath and remember it is all going to be okay.
2. Establish a good cooking environment.
The new location of casa de phillips has an island in the kitchen, something that we did not have in our previous home. I love the island for many reasons (its four outlets being the first reason), especially how it makes a great space for the kids to pull up a chair and help me cook without fear of being too close to the oven or stovetop. Create a good environment for kids to cook in by decluttering the workspace, having a safe place for kids to stand to work (I would love one of these or simply one of these) and making kid-friendly tools accessible (Never underestimate the power of the wooden spoon).
3. Give the child specific jobs.
I must confess, when I first started letting the kids in the kitchen with me they were mainly spectators. Maybe…maybe…they got to stir something but for the most part they simply watched. That scenario was not really working for anyone, so I decided to relax (see number 1) and let them have their own jobs. I send them to the refrigerator to retrieve needed items. I let them crack eggs. I have them pour and measure. I give them specific jobs and do not follow up behind them, correcting any mistakes. If an egg shell lands in our food, I teach them how to retrieve it. If something is not mixed well enough, I ask if they would like for me to show them how to mix it better. However, I try really hard not to simply step in and take over their assigned job. I want them to own the job and be proud of it.
4. Discuss the process of cooking.
Sometimes it is easy to go through the mundane tasks of cooking and not really think about the process. However, when cooking with children it is important to explain the process. When a pot of water is put on to boil spaghetti noodles, explain why noodles taste better boiled than raw. Talk about food safety issues, such as always washing hands after touching raw meat. Take time to talk about what you are doing when cooking with children.
The other day Miss E. was helping me cook supper, which included making a few loaves of banana bread. At some point handfuls of oats ended up on my newly mopped floor and an egg was “dropped” on the counter top. Sigh. Instead of letting my frustrations show, I laughed. I told E. stories of my own personal kitchen disasters, which she found funny to know that even mommies make messes in the kitchen. Enjoy the time in the kitchen with your children. Make it a fun and happy time and one that occurs frequently.
My question for you is “Do you cook with your kids?”
If so, how often and what kinds of things? How do you make a fun experience for everyone involved?