The kids scamper into the kitchen, beckoned by the sound of cabinet doors opening and closing. They see measuring cups, ingredients, bowls, and spoons set out on the counter and the chorus begins.
“What are you making?”
“Can I help?”
“I want to do it too!”
Helping in the kitchen is something that kids are naturally drawn to, but parents often shoo them away, knowing that it creates extra work and mess while also tacking time onto an already time-consuming task.
Although it’s tempting to tell your kids, “Not this time,” when they ask if they can help with the cooking, there are plenty of reasons to say yes to your kids in the kitchen.
Kids in the Kitchen: Cooking Made Easy (Really!)
The benefits of allowing your children to help in the kitchen are numerous. Cooking naturally lends itself to the improvement of math, science, and reading skills. Kids practice social skills in the kitchen, such as listening, taking turns, and working together. And let’s not forget the fact that knowing how to cook is an invaluable life skill.
Perhaps, even after knowing the benefits, you’re still reluctant to let your kids help. Maybe the extra work it requires makes the benefits seem like they’re not worth it.
What would you say if there were simple ways to avoid the pitfalls and make cooking with your kids a pleasant experience? The following four tips will do just that.
1. Do a little prep work
Before the kids jump in, make sure you have your recipe, ingredients, and equipment ready to go. This will not only prevent your kids from getting antsy while you pull everything out, but will also ensure that you have everything you need. There aren’t many cooking dilemmas more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you’re missing an ingredient.
If your children are younger, you may want to pre-measure the ingredients. This will make it extra easy on them (and you).
Also, prepare a place for your children to work. Let them sit at the kitchen table or have a sturdy stool available to stand on at the counter.
2. Give your kids simple, specific tasks
There are many tasks that a child can do, depending on his age and skill level. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Washing/rinsing foods
- Peeling vegetables
- Cutting foods (kid-safe knives are available in many stores)
- Measuring ingredients
- Pouring ingredients
- Mixing or stirring
3. Be prepared for messes
We mean this in a mental sense as well as a physical sense. If you prepare yourself mentally for the fact that messes will happen, you won’t find them as annoying when they occur.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be ready for them. Keep cleaning supplies easily accessible so messes, such as spills, can be quickly taken care of.
4. Require help with clean-up
Although cooking is the fun part, if your children want to help, make sure they know that with the fun comes the responsibility. Once the cooking is done, your kids can help gather and discard food scraps and trash, wipe down counter tops, sweep floors, and wash dishes. Even if a young child’s attempts at cleaning are not entirely successful, it’s a good habit to get him into early.
Hopefully you’re now ready to gather up your kids and get cooking! If you need some recipe inspiration, check out the Cooking With Kids section of our DIY area. You’ll find plenty to choose from including delicious snacks, appetizers, main courses, and desserts.