Cooking with my child is something I was taught as a Dietitian would help with food acceptance (read: not be a picky eater). Welp, that didn’t happen, but I still believe that there is immense value to having kids help in the kitchen.
First, it helps alleviate some of the “newness” of new foods. Have you ever faced a new experience and felt some apprehension? Have you ever asked friends about what to expect with said experience? The same is true with kids and food. If the first exposure to a food means eating it, sometimes this “newness” apprehension shows itself as a dramatic refusal to even touch the food. Giving a kid the chance to see and touch a food by helping out in the kitchen means the first food exposure is not at the dinner table. Some kids may even ask to taste foods while cooking and that is awesome. My kid isn’t that way, but your’s might be!
The second thing, and honestly some may argue the most important, is teaching kids basic cooking skills. Cooking is a life skill that I’ve seen on the decline and it concerns me professionally. The longer I am a Dietitian the more convinced I am that the key to good nutrition is not any particular diet, but just eating real food, lots of variety, and enjoying it all. However, eating real and unprocessed food does mean that some preparation at home usually needs to take place.
Finally, let’s talk about cost of NOT cooking. I personally was not able to afford to eat out all the time when I was a young professional. I was a new grad, so of course I didn’t have the highest salary. I had student loans. I needed a new-to-me car to get to and from work because my wheels from my college days died. I was living on my own for the first time. I could go on and on. I know that I’m not alone, and many young people find themselves in similar situations. I see teaching our kids to cook as a way to help them stand on their own in those early days after they leave our homes.
Now that you know why I’m passionate about getting kids in the kitchen, let’s be honest about how hard that reality can be as a mother. Sharp objects. Dirty hands. THE MESS. Oh and let’s not forget the attitudes and snarky comments. But I have found a few keys to cooking with my child without losing my mind.
Have Safe Equipment
One of my biggest concerns has always been my child chopping off a finger while helping me in the kitchen. There is nothing that can ruin a family dinner faster than a trip to the ER to reattach a digit. Here is an AWESOME solution to my concerns, the Curious Chef Knife Set.
I get Little Bit set up with a plastic cutting board that won’t slide around on the countertop, show her one or two examples of how I want the food item chopped, and let her get to work. She absolutely loves it, and I love that it gives her a chance to be exposed to new foods. In these pictures, she is chopping cucumbers and peppers. She did try both vegetables. She says she didn’t like them, but that doesn’t stop us. We keep making the foods and keep trying a bite each time
2. Find Fun Recipes
I let her make cooking/baking requests. Clearly the vegetables that she claims make her gag in the above pictures were my choices, but I also try to honor her requests too. Just last week she asked to make brownies, her favorite dessert, and I said yes. Giving her the chance to have input in what we make gives her ownership of her work in the kitchen. It keeps her motivated to learn.
This is a picture of her watching homemade biscuits rise in the oven. She LOVES these biscuits so getting her excited to help was super easy.
Another way we find recipes we both want to make is by having cookbooks that interest us both. The biscuits she is watching bake are from Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines. She loves the food and I love the ease of so many of these recipes. This is quickly becoming a favorite cookbook in our house.
Do you have a Disney fan in your house? Maybe a copy of this Disney Princess Cookbook like Little Bit received as a gift from a dear friend for her birthday, will do the trick. There are so many options out there, think of something that interests your child and find a way to incorporate it into the kitchen.
3. Turn it into play time
Little Bit does not like to play dress up. Seriously. She only dresses up for Halloween because she wants to go trick-or-treating. Dress up is just not her thing. But when it comes to the kitchen, she wants to wear her apron. We have something similar to the link below. It has an adjustable strap around the neck and is made of a water-resistant material. As soon as she dons that apron she starts referring to everyone as Chef <_____>, so I become Chef Mommy, and if Daddy is helping he is Chef Daddy. It is the simple act of wearing an apron that turns cooking from chore time to play time, and that is key.
4. Bonus Tip
This 15lb ball of fluff is my solution to the mess that ends up all over the floor. 🙂
I know it may seem challenging to cook with your kids, but hopefully you can make it fun so it leads to wonderful memories as well as valuable life skills.
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