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Cooking with kids is important. Cooking is a life skill children need and even though it’s tempting to shoo them out of the kitchen so you can get things done, every once in a while it’s a great idea to get them involved. There are many reasons to cook with your kids.
- Cooking will give your kids the gift of knowing how to make good food. Your preschooler may not be a 5-star chef, but if they learn skills like cracking eggs, or how to measure ingredients, they are well on their way to having the knowledge of how to follow a recipe to feed themselves someday.
- It’s a self-esteem builder. If we are patient with kids as they help us cook, we can teach them they can do it. As their fine motor skills increase and their cognitive skills increase, they will be already set with confidence in their abilities to do challenging cooking tasks.
- Cooking at home with the kids is more nutritious than eating out.
- Cooking with kids gives you time to spend together as you prepare and eat the meal together.
- Kids are more likely to try healthy food if they help to prepare it. I have seen time and time again kids who were picky and don’t like anything pick up something they have never given a chance before and try a bite of it because they helped make it. Many times they even liked it as well. Click here for 10 meals kids like that aren’t junk!
- Cooking makes kids smart! Cooking involves reading, science, and math, important skills for success. Cooking teaches these skills to kids in a fun and memorable way.
- Cooking increases creativity. Using their imagination to create ideas for meals or recipes improves problems solving skills as well as helps kids think about food in new and original ways. There is nothing more satisfying than creating a new combination and loving it.
- Sensory experiences teach kids a lot. Kids explore the world through sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Food helps kids focus on all of those senses together as well as each one individually.
- Cooking helps kids learn to follow directions. Cooking requires following a recipe, measuring and other cognitive skills. An enjoyable cooking experience can help kids learn those skills in a memorable, fun way.
- Cooking improves fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Think of cracking and egg, or popping or hatching as the kids say. Leveling off a cup of flour, or pouring 4 cups of milk into a bowl without spilling requires a lot of muscle control. Cooking is a great fun way to help the kids develop these vital skills.
Recipes for kids
Check out these basic cooking skills for kids.
It can be challenging to cook with kids in the kitchen, especially if like me, you are outnumbered 7 to 1. I have 5 tips for making cooking with kids less stressful for you.
Cook with kids
- BE PREPARED! This is true for most activities we do with kids. Get all of the ingredients and tools you need ready before you invite the kids to the work area. This will prevent A LOT of misfortune that can arise from leaving them unattended to grab something else you need.
- Print up the recipe. I print recipes for what we are making and hang them on the wall next to our cooking area. As we make the recipe I read it to the kids and then we do that step. This connects pre-reading skills and makes kids understand that words have meaning. It’s also handy to have the recipe available for me to refer to as we do the steps together.
- Always talk about washing hands and being clean. The first thing I do is wash the table and tell the kids I’m getting all the germs off and then we go to the bathroom and wash their hands to get all the germs off as well. If someone picks up a toy, puts their hands in their mouth, or wipes their nose, I have them go back and wash again and remind them we don’t want to get our germs in the food.
- Give each child a turn to do something for the recipe. I just move the bowl or pan in front of whoever’s turn it is and gives them the next ingredient. That way everyone knows whose turn it is and knows they will get turns as well. It’s hard to be patient when you are little, but it helps a lot if we remain calm and teach them everyone wants a turn and they are not the only one waiting. They can see the cooking supplies coming closer to them and know it’s almost time.
- If there is something you can split up to give more turns when you cook with your kids, do it. For instance, if the recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, let three different kids put in one cup of flour so their turns are faster and they get more of them. 4 different kids can “pop” four eggs and everyone can stir! Once it’s time to stir, I take the time to let each child stir it before we move on to other things. The best recipes are the ones that have lots of stirring. Kids love to stir.
Be patient, they are going to spill and smash and make a mess, but this failure is part of learning when you cook with your kids. I’m messy when I cook too, so who am I to judge?
I made the mistake with my daughter of being impatient in the kitchen and she still struggles with that sometimes as a grown up, so I learned to CALM DOWN when we are cooking. Sometimes I wish I could go back and change things, but all I can do now is do better.
Cooking doesn’t always have to be complicated or super extravagant. You can cook with your kids simple things like snack mixes or fruit salad. Just getting to cut or mix or pour is all the kids need for a great learning opportunity. The important part is letting kids get hands-on with the preparation of their food.
My kids don’t cook with me every week, but we at least cook a couple of things together each month and when we make our cookbook they get to make a recipe almost every day for a whole month! I have teenagers and grown adults that still tell me cooking with me was their favorite thing to do at Little Sprouts. That’s the proof the knowledge lasted a lifetime.
Try to think of something you can cook with your kids today, and you’ll be enjoying a lot more than just some yummy food!
Check out some fun recipes to cook with your kids:
- Ice cream in a bag
- Spaghetti pie
- Cat eyes
- Homemade pretzels
- Lotsa pasta
- Fun fruit pizza
- Broccoli salad
- Blueberry peach smoothie
- Egg veggie breakfast casserole
- Cowboy cookies
- Chicken Waldorf salad