Here are the top 6 tips to make including your kids in the kitchen enjoyable and stress free.
When kids have a solid foundation they will feel competent and empowered in the kitchen. And there is nothing sweeter than seeing your little one beaming with pride after cooking a meal or accomplishing a task.
1. SET UP A SAFE WORK SPACE FOR YOUR CHILD
A safe, comfortable area will allow you and your child the confidence to fully participate in the cooking tasks. Here are some suggestions:
- A learning tower or kids kitchen helpers. These are enclosed platforms or stools that keep your child safe from falling while bringing them up to counter height. Many are adjustable and will grow with your child. Here is a link to my all time favorite learning tower. I bought this for my daughter when she was 18 months and it was a GAME CHANGER. She was able to safety watch me and help me by washing fruits and vegetables, stirring, mixing and pouring ingredients. We still use it multiples times a day.
- A child sized table where they can stand or sit with their feet on the floor. This allows them to move around freely and comfortably prepare food.
- For an older child, a kitchen step stool works well.
2. TEACH KITCHEN SAFETY
Basics like the stove and oven can burn you, and knives can cut you, are a good place to start. Teach your kids about food safety and the importance of washing their hands before, after, and sometimes during cooking. Set some ground rules up front so they know what to expect. Explain to your child that some tasks, like cutting with a sharp knife and opening the stove are for grown ups only.
3. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
Get everything ready ahead of time, except what you want your child to help with. Gather, chop and measure the ingredients as necessary and set out on the counter or table in the right order. This is especially important for younger children who tend to have less patience and shorter attention spans. Preparing ahead of time makes cooking more fun and reduces the frustration for you and your child.
4. MAKE SURE YOU ARE RELAXED AND HAVE ENOUGH TIME
Cooking with kids takes longer than cooking alone. Inviting them to cook when you are stressed or short on time is a recipe for disaster.
5. GATHER KID SIZED TOOLS
For younger kids, having some tools made for little hands will allow them to be safe and capable in the kitchen. Think small bowls that don’t move when you mix, short spoons, a small spreading knife, a child safe cutting knife and vegetable peeler. You could even empty out an easy to reach drawer or cupboard where they can store their tools, giving them more independence and ownership of the cooking process.
There are so many great kitchen tools for kids, but here are the ones we use most frequently:
- A child size masher: this makes it easy for little hands to mash avocados, potatoes, bananas, and tofu. I love this so much, I use it even when my daughter isn’t around.
- A crinkle cutter/wavy chopper: my daughters favorite tool since before she was 2. Kids use two hands to press down, making it easy and safe to use. Her favorites to chop are cucumbers, sweet potato and watermelon.
- Child safe knife: These knives are the best. They look like “real” knives but won’t cut your little ones fingers. They are lightweight and easy for kids to use.
- Non-slip mixing bowl: small sized bowls that don’t move around when they stir are essential for cooking with kids
- Aprons: so your child will feel like a real chef and keep their clothes clean too.
6. START SMALL AND TAILOR TASKS TO YOUR CHILD
Choose short tasks or simple recipes to start. Have kids tear lettuce for salad, wash fruit and vegetables or add spice to a recipe. Be mindful of your child’s abilities and attention span when choosing a recipe or task. Stay present and help guide and assist them as need be. As they develop their cooking abilities, add on more skills.