Kids in The Kitchen

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Most of us probably try to keep our kids OUT of the kitchen! When I think about cooking with kids, it gives me mild anxiety. All I can picture is egg yolk dripping from the countertops and flour splattered everywhere! If you have mild perfectionist tendencies or a busy life then this topic can seem like a daunting task. Well, have no fear! A few tips and you can begin making this an enjoyable hobby for you and your kids. Plus, it becomes helpful down the road when you feel confident to allow them to make their own breakfast and pack their lunch for school. Can anyone say time freedom? Now that is a good reason to get your kids started in the kitchen young.

So, let’s start with a few basic tips:

– Choose a low-pressure time
– Keep it simple
– Make it fun

As a self-taught chef, I’ve been cooking in the kitchen since I was 10 years old. I don’t measure my seasoning and I rarely use recipes. I typically enjoy cooking when I have the time and space to “get in the zone”. However, the second I step foot in the kitchen, it’s like someone pulled the alarm to alert our four kids ranging in age from 4-16 years old to come help! They barrel into the kitchen shouting, “Can I help? Can I help?”. After many failed attempts, a little shouting, and some mental breakdowns, I’ve set a few ground rules that keep everyone happy. Not for nothing, it’s been a few years since we’ve had to throw away a failed dinner attempt and order pizza instead.

Choose a low-pressure time. I think we can all agree that dinner time is not the ideal way to introduce your kids to cooking in the kitchen. Unless of course, you start making dinner at 4 pm and plan to eat at 7 pm that evening. It’s best to start with a lazy weekend at home when you have no plans or other commitments. You could even let them help with a special dessert once you’ve already cooked dinner and the kitchen is still dirty. Whatever you do, don’t pick a time when you are rushed.

Keep it simple. While I may be a certified teacher in my former career taking care of 25-30 kids at once, I don’t recommend having more than 1 or 2 kids helping in the kitchen at the same time. In the beginning, take it slow. It wouldn’t make sense to pick a 3-course dinner or even a difficult dish that you’ve never made before as your first attempt at cooking together. A few ways to get the kids involved include washing fruits and vegetables, gathering the ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry, getting all the tools you will need and of course their favorite task, mixing! This gives you time and space to teach them proper hygiene methods while cooking, how to read a recipe and the names of certain kitchen tools like a spatula, whisk, mixing bowl, and the difference between a pot and pan. These basics are the key to long-term success and less stress in the kitchen! Plus you’re building some future helpers to get dinner started when you’re running home late from work.

We enjoy giving the kids choices in our home. One way you could make it more exciting is to send the kids to Pinterest to find their own recipes. Give them a topic or idea and let them run free scrolling and finding yummy pictures that pique their interest. Sticking with this concept of simplicity, I recommend starting with a simple dip, salad, or even a dessert. Look for recipes that have less than 10 ingredients and only a few steps, 8 or less seems to be the sweet spot. Crockpot recipes or one that does not require the stovetop or oven are good with smaller children.

Make it fun. You’ve already chosen a good time to get started and a fun recipe in advance. Now it’s time to get your mindset in the right place. Wrap your head around the fact that the kitchen is going to be a mess! Inevitably a kid is going to drop something on the floor, there will be sauce in their hair and someone is going to have a stain on their clothes. Whatever you do, laugh about it. Keep in mind, with all of this preparation and thought ahead of time, your creation may turn out to be a complete flop. That’s ok. One way to prevent disappointment and keep creativity at the forefront is to plan on having a family rating system for each meal you cook together. Rate your masterpieces and make adjustments or recommendations for the next time.

Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful. The key is being prepared ahead of time and making it an enjoyable experience. Pick a day this week that your family can cook together and use some of these tips.
Bon Appetit.

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