Cooking with kids can be hard. I am a kitchen mum. A fully fledged, self-confessed kitchen mum. For me having my kids in the kitchen cooking with me is second nature. Second nature it may be, but do not get me wrong, this does not mean that I find cooking with my kids enjoyable and stress-free 100% of the time.
Trust me when I say cooking with my kids has got the better of me on many occasions. But, I must say I am getting better and better at making cooking with my kids less stressful and more fun. I had to, I am a kid food blogger, if I couldn't figure out how to get a handle on cooking with my kids and staying sane, then I would have run into all sorts of trouble.
My Ten Tips For Cooking with Kids
1. Choose a good time for your kids
This is an absolute must. If you want your cooking with kids session to go well then choose a time of the day when your kiddo: is not tired, able to focus and is able to take on a challenge. Do not attempt a cooking session with a child, particularly a toddler who is tired, cranky or hungry. It is not worth it. This means, particularly for pre-schoolers that evening dinner prep may not be the best time to cook with your kids. You may have more success with a morning session.
2. Choose a good time for you
When you cook with your kids it needs to be at a time when you are calm, have the time, and are absolutely able to surrender to the process. Because cooking with kids, particularly pre-schoolers is about the process, not the end result. It will probably take much longer than you anticipate. You may not end up with much end product (kiddos spilling things, tasting things, inadvertently adding wrong ingredients). So approach it like you would a craft activity for the kids rather than preparing the evening meal. ie do it at a time when you have the time.
3. Choose a safe and practical location
For your a cooking session with kids to be as low stress and as safe as possible it may mean getting out of the kitchen. If you have an appropriate height stool for kids to stand up at at the kitchen bench then, by all means, use the bench. But if you don't, then think outside the box. I often set up the kids cooking at their activity table. Because then they can easily reach when standing etc. There is no reason why a food processor or blender can't be set up on a table instead of the bench. We often actually do veggie prep outside. They can wash veggies outside in large bowls/buckets of water and I can set up chopping boards etc at their outside table or workbench.
4. Prepare for mess
Let's get one thing straight, it is highly likely your cooking session is going to end up in a mess. I advise starting with a tidy cooking area (ie tidy the kitchen bench etc so there is space) but do not bother cleaning the kitchen before your session. Right after you have swept and mopped the kitchen floor, is not a great time to have a cooking session with the kids. Because trust me it is a lot easier to surrender to the mess, if the mess is happening in an already slightly messy kitchen. Dress your kids appropriately. Think more along the lines of the clothes you would have them in for painting, rather than their best outfits.
5. Follow a recipe
I am a taste and trial cook. ie I often don't use a recipe. When cooking with my kids, however, I try to avoid my more haphazard method and actually choose a recipe. This is because my kids love the process. They love the steps and particularly love to have seen a picture of what we are going to cook. Following a recipe brings a lot of learning opportunities too. If you are following a recipe you are more likely to measure ingredients which are wonderful learning opportunities. Following a recipe means you can also get everything out and ready before you start the cooking session. Once you have kids standing up at the bench. In my case 3 kids, it can get really difficult to access utensils and ingredients that their stools are now blocking.
I've put together a collection of easy baking recipes for kids which are just perfect!
6. Try out the meal monsters app
This article was able to be put together through the generosity of the meal monsters app. Meal monsters is an animated educational app that combines recipes, games and storytelling to encourage kids to cook and eat healthy meals. My kids and I were lucky enough to have an opportunity to preview the app before launch. It has been an absolute hit. My kids love anything related to the iPad. So this was perfect. We tried out 3 recipes and my kids loved the process. It is essentially like a talking visual cookbook. My five year old particularly liked it and was able to make the berry blast smoothie from start to finish all by himself with his sisters as helpers following the steps in the meal monsters app. If you want to learn more about the meal monsters app, head to their website MEAL MONSTERS. The app is available for both iOS and Android platforms
7. Measure, measure, measure
This tip harks back to tip 5 where I suggest following a recipe. Follow a recipe and get out all the measuring equipment, spoons, cups, jugs, scales. Kids love measuring. They love it, and it's a great practical way to learn some basic maths.
8. Think outside the box to keep things safe
I am a big believer in kids learning knife skills. But I also think we need to think about safety in the kitchen. Sometimes it may pay to think outside the box so that kids can still feel empowered in the kitchen. Options like using a food processor for cutting vegetables for the little ones could be a good idea.
9. Pile on the praise
No matter what your kid manages in the kitchen pile on the praise. Anything they manage is an achievement and if the final result is edible.. well that is a huge win.
10. No pressure to taste
Getting kids in the kitchen and preparing foods is one of my top tips for helping with picky and fussy eating. But here is the thing just like at the table with a picky eater there should be no pressure to taste either the ingredients or the final product. If they do that is brilliant. But if they don't, that is ok too.
So there we have it 10 tips for cooking with your kids and hopefully staying sane. I should say tip 11 is to have a glass of wine handy! I jest of course. Good luck and happy cooking sessions.