My first cooking expectations were something out of a magazine, but I quickly realized cooking with your kid is ALL about the learning opportunity. The more you do it, the easier it will get, I promise. The older Caleb gets, the more excited I am to getting him in the kitchen with me!
Here are my TOP tips on Cooking with Kids
- Get the camera ready. Kids in the kitchen are adorable no matter how exhausting cooking with them may feel at first. Take a quick step back and think of it this way: it’s the place they watch mom and dad spend time whipping up meals for the family and now THEY get a chance to be a part of it.
- Wonder when to start? As soon as they have an interest. Attention is key: If they can stay focused for the period of time when decorating, say, Easter eggs, that is a good indication they could be ready to handle time with mom in the kitchen.
- If you can, start with the grocery store. You will have their “buy-in” from the beginning. Picking out the ingredients makes the experience special and they can connect the dots quicker with the cooking process. Talk through the recipe and have your kids help you fill that grocery cart! I have found several of our local grocery stores even have kid carts!
- Don’t begin with Thanksgiving dinner. If they haven’t helped before, try a little dessert or snack. The less commitment in the beginning, the better, in my humble opinion. If it’s short and sweet it will be a lot less pressure to take on as opposed to a full-on cooking lesson.
- Explain the Rules of the Kitchen. Every time. Kids need a reminder. Posting rules in the kitchen are so helpful! Let them be a part of it by writing out the rules, letting them make some up, and posting it on the refrigerator. Caleb LOVED this and it set a very responsible tone for our cooking adventures together.
- Have patience. Be ready for anything. Period. Embrace the spilled milk and use it as a learning opportunity. They need to learn to pour themselves something to drink eventually, right?
- Stay positive. If you feel stressed, they will, too. Cooking is a very important skill to learn in life, and the earlier you get them started the less likely they will run to the fast food line later in life!
- Too many cooks in the kitchen? If you have multiple kids that are first-time chefs, I suggest splitting up the recipe. Let each child try adding ingredients separately or mixing the bowl in 30-second intervals. If you can get away cooking with one kid at a time, have it be a special time with each one making their recipe of choice. They won’t have to share you AND they can lick the spoon all by themselves.
- Try a box food delivery service. From the box delivered to your door it’s something new and can freshen up the whole experience. Ingredients are pre-measured which can make it MUCH easier to add kids into the mix!
- Experiment. Taste-test along the way. Even let them try out their very own dish. I let Caleb make his own sandwich with anything he wanted from our pantry. You would think it was Christmas morning in our house; he thought this was the best thing on the planet for me to let him do. He added cereal, m&ms, crunched up potato chips, raisins, honey, and sprinkles….Why not?
- Learning opportunities galore! Measuring, counting, reading a recipe. Hand-eye coordination. Patience while the cookies are baking. The list goes on!
- Clean up. Building the habits early is so key here. Every chef starts and ends with a CLEAN kitchen. Add it to the Kitchen Rules!!!!
- Inspire yourself and your kids by watching others cook. We watch Master Chef Junior on Food Network and are amazed every time. There are also many kids that have their very own cooking YouTube channels. Pretty cute. Recipe books with lots of pictures are the perfect way to pick recipes together.
Bon appetit and most importantly, have fun!