9 Ways to Cook With Kids Without Losing Your Cool
You are cooped up at home with the kiddos and the idea of baking cookies or whipping up homemade pizzas comes to mind — and then reality sets in. Flour everywhere and a botched recipe because you're frazzled and it becomes less fun than you signed up for.
Don't sweat it. Here are ways to make it enjoyable and delicious if not totally clean and perfect. It's all about the bond factor, right? There's also the opportunity for a few teaching moments too. Now get cookin'!
1. Choose a recipe you know. Going in as a recipe rookie yourself will certainly up the stress factor as you're trying to show the kids how to cook. Give them two or three recipe options if you want but also make sure it's something you can swing with ease. Here are some fun recipes to try with your little ones with a few age-appropriate tasks.
- Healthy recipes are a great way to teach kids about nutrition. You can have them wash fruits and veggies and and (if they're about 5 and up) cut them too. Try these healthy soups kids will love.
- Give kids a chance to roll, knead or cut out dough with these kid-friendly pizza recipes and mini cherry heart pies.
- Puff pastry recipes are a crowd and kid pleaser. It's like dessert and dinner in one — and easy for kids to top with ingredients!
2. Give it a cultural spin. Practice a family recipe to teach kids about their own culture and choose recipes from other regions to keep kids more engaged, learning to embrace other cultures and trying new dishes to evolve their palate.
3. Lay out the ingredients first. Measuring is a great learning tool but maybe leave one ingredient for smaller kids to measure like flour, water, or oil. Depending on their age you might want to have bowls and ramekins set up so they can just top their pizza dough or pour in the chocolate chips. Kids can also count how many eggs a recipe requires or use a butter knife to measure and cut the butter.
4. Grab a stool. Kids will have way more fun and get less frustrated if they feel like they have a mom's eye view of what you're cooking together. Give them a boost with a bench or stool. Aprons optional!
5. Set up the station with safety in mind. Remember to keep sharp knives out of their reach (something that can be easy to forget when you're in the throes of cooking with kids!) and set up their work station away from the oven and stove. As kids get older they can practice flipping a pancake or checking on the cookies but at the toddler and preschool age sticking to the table and island will keep them safe and you, well, sane.
6. Start a hand-washing habit. That is, if you haven't already been hand-washing obsessed! But getting kids in the habit of washing their hands before and after cooking will teach them good hygiene that will benefit them during flu season and beyond.
7. Read the recipe together. Read the recipe to them like you're reading a story — with anticipation and excitement. It's a great way to expose your child to words they may not have heard before. You can also have kids (who are at the reading stage) practice reading the recipe. You'll have a junior chef in no time and breakfast in bed someday…
8. Think about how to split tasks for siblings. Mom of more than one? Come up with a plan so they both have equal ways to help you out. Maybe one cracks an egg and the other kneads the dough or they both get a crack at egg cracking. Think about what those tasks might look like before you're doing double/triple duty.
9. Don't worry about the clean up. Seriously, don't worry about the clean up until after you're done (and maybe that's where dad plays top chef;). Just focus on having fun, letting go of perfection and enjoying the meal and many more together.
Got a favorite cooking with kids hack? Share with us @BritandCo!
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.