Let’s face it ladies and gents, preparing dinner usually feels like a dreaded chore. We come home from work exhausted and maybe even a bit irritable. The last thing we want to think about is getting food on the table, much less engaging our children in the process. Slow down, relax and take a deep breath. Cooking with your little ones can be an enjoyable bonding experience.
A few years ago, I used to babysit my two-year-old niece. Helping me in the kitchen was one of her favorite activities. Sure, she made a mess, but we had fun.
☼ Create A Fun Environment
This is a very important step. If you’re not having fun, neither will your little ones. Play some music and sing along with your kids. Surprise them with their own cooking utensils in fun colors, or an apron and chef’s hat. Your little tots may even enjoy their very own cookbook.
☼ Planning A Meal
Once a week ask your children to decide on a meal for the family dinner. If you’re afraid they may say cake, try giving them a few healthy options to choose from.
The older kids can even assist with the grocery list. You can read the recipe together and write down the ingredients needed from the store. When grocery shopping, have your child cross out items on the list.
☼ Safety First
The kitchen is full of potential dangers, so monitor your children closely. Teach them kitchen safety and remind them often, because children tend to have short attention spans.
☼ Prep Time
Always educate them on good hygiene, by pulling back long hair and having them wash their hands thoroughly (teach them to sing Happy Birthday twice, as they wash their hands. This is a fun way to practice cleanliness).
Depending on your child’s age, they can measure, chop, wash vegies, snap peas, shred lettuce, pull herbs from their stems or crack some eggs.
It’s up to you to decide when your older children are ready to work with grown up tools, such as knives. Make sure they are aware of knife safety and instruct them how to properly work with sharp objects.
☼ Measure & Pour
Your younger ones can watch as you measure ingredients, then they can pour everything into a bowl. This is a great time to enlighten them on terms like teaspoon, tablespoon and cup.
The older children can measure, and you can teach them about leveling ingredients with the edge of a knife.
☼ Stirring & Combining
Even young children can practice stirring batters and combining dry ingredients. You can coach them by using different techniques, including gently folding ingredients or using a whisk to whip everything together.
☼ Clean Up Time
Let them help clean up by wiping spills or bringing dirty dishes to the sink.
☼ Setting the Dinner Table
Children can place the silverware or dishes on the table. Show them how to put the napkins in the napkin rings or pour the drinks. Teach your children which utensils are appropriate for different entrees and let them begin to choose which to use for each dish.
Most of all don’t forget to thank your children for assisting you and give them praise for a job well done.
What are your favorite ways to involve your children in the kitchen?