TEN TIPS FOR COOKING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AND LOVING IT!

Chasing With Zyliss Knife

TEN TIPS FOR COOKING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AND LOVING IT!

by | Jan 15, 2021

For many parents, the idea of cooking with their young children is not something that they envision as “loving.” Young families have so much to get done in their day that adding extra time and clean-up to any part of the day can bring on stress. But the benefits of cooking with your children/grandchildren/someone else’s children are immense. When children have opportunities to make healthy food, they learn self sufficiency and are more likely to become healthy eaters. In addition, they learn many other skills such as spelling, reading, science and math. And they learn new concepts such as taste differentiation, recycling, composting, and farming. The list of potential benefits is endless, and the memories of cooking with children are lifelong.

Here are my top ten tips for making the experience the best that it can be:

1. Let them choose the project.

Give some thought ahead of time to a few healthy recipes that your child/children might enjoy. Discuss these options with them and give them the choice of what they would like to prepare. The project is more likely to be a success if they participate in the decision making and you start with foods that they already enjoy.

Chase and Vegetable Man
Chase Eating Halloween Veggie Man

2. Start small.

On your first time out, choose a short recipe with few ingredients. Both of my grandsons enjoy preparing and eating these Energy Balls which come together in minutes and have only four ingredients. Another option is to have them participate in a part of the meal preparation such as gathering, portioning or adding ingredients or doing a taste test before and after the addition of herbs and spices, for example. When my grandson, Chase, was 1, he sat at the kitchen table and chopped, tasted and smelled herbs with this Zyliss lettuce knife. I’ve used this knife successfully in my cooking classes with young children for my years.

Chasing With Zyliss Knife
Chase With Zyliss Knife

3. Choose a relaxing time for you and for them to cook.

Cooking when children or adults are in a hurry or under stress is no fun for anyone. It can result in injuries to you or them as well as more frazzled nerves and disappointment for all. Think about the time of day that is best for both you and the child and choose a day and time that will be as stress free as possible.

Chase Cooking With Papa Mark
Chase Making Apple Pie With Papa Mark

4. Gather all of the ingredients and equipment in advance.

For very small children, prepping and measuring ingredients in advance can avoid frustrations that might result from the project taking too long. As children grow and gain more experience in the kitchen, they may enjoy the process of cleaning, weighing and measuring ingredients.

5. Call them “Chef” and provide them with an apron, a chef’s hat or a simple sticker or badge to start the project.

Cooking With Young Children
Pixabay at Pexels

Young children want to be like their parents/grandparents. They love being helpers. Give them a small memento to commemorate the experience. After the project, they’ll love sharing the experience with their friends and family.

6. Review kitchen safety issues with them.

Start with hand washing and remind them why it is important to wash hands before cooking to prevent foodborne illnesses. Scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds is recommended. I always suggest singing happy birthday at the sink to gauge the time passed or you can set a timer by the sink. Drying with a clean towel is an important part of the process as well.

Review the equipment that you plan to use. Advise them about safety concerns such as putting fingers/hands in a blender or mixer, touching a hot stove and using knives. The age of the child and their experience in the kitchen will inform these decisions. I have worked with young children in my cooking classes that are very proficient with knives. It is also important that you be comfortable with what the child is doing even if they are proficient. You don’t want to be holding your breath in fear as you cook.

7. Take their picture to memorialize the event.

These pictures are priceless and will be enjoyed as they grow older and look back upon their experiences in the kitchen. Prepare a photo book to share with them of their time “growing up” in the kitchen.

8. If appropriate, allow them to smell, taste and feel the ingredients as they go.

Chase In Kitchen
Chase Tasting, Feeling And Smelling

Of course, you don’t want them tasting raw meat, but tasting appropriate ingredients is an amazing learning experience. Many great chefs have taught themselves to cook simply through experimenting with foods and tasting the results. Vanilla is a common ingredient that is a great taste experiment. It smells wonderful in the bottle, but does not taste good until it becomes a part of something greater than itself.

9. Engage them as age appropriate about math, science, spelling, reading, sustainability, recycling, farming, etc.

Counting, numbers, fractions, measuring, critical thinking, reading, the science of food are only the beginning of the learning experiences that can take place in the kitchen.

10. Enjoy the finished dish together!

The best part! Savor the experience. Sit with them and enjoy the finished product. This gives you the opportunity to bond over a shared experience. Discuss the process, the end result, and things that you might have done differently. And always honor the child’s experience and their decision that they do or don’t like the taste of what they have prepared. Remind them that their taste buds change over time and that the same ingredient may vary in taste or texture depending on its ripeness, time on the shelf, whether it is fresh or frozen as well as many other factors. Honoring their choices and feelings will lead to many more enjoyable and fulfilling kitchen experiences in the future.

Try preparing this healthy four ingredient snack with children. They’ll love you for it.

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