Even on the most basic level, cooking with young kids is an adventure. My daughter is just shy of two and a half years old, so her work in the kitchen has been pretty limited thus far. Only recently did we attempt to make blueberry muffins together and it went pretty well (my kitchen is still in working order). My friend, cooking-with-kids expert, and author of the blog Teeny Tiny Foodie and I have teamed up to share some helpful tips for cooking with kids. Jory’s entire blog is dedicated to healthy cooking for families and little ones, in fact she is available for menu planning and cooking classes of all sizes in the New York area – she made a delicious and healthy green smoothie with my daughter.
Tips for Cooking with Kids
1. Use a Step Stool or Small Table
Jory makes a great point by recognizing that most tiny chefs can’t reach the height of the counter where all the action is taking place. She recommends an enclosed step stool, like the FunPod or The Kitchen Helper to keep your little one safe and contained. Another option would be to bring the action to their height by using a smaller table where they can help with basic measuring, pouring, cutting, cleaning and mixing tasks.
2. Prep Work
When cooking with little ones, especially first (or second) timers, it’s best to measure out and prepare the ingredients beforehand. When we made muffins my daughter poured all the ingredients in the bowl, helped mix the batter, and filled the muffin tin. As your child gets older and more comfortable in the kitchen, they can take on more and more responsibilities – check out what Jory’s daughter is doing now at age 4.
3. Give Age Appropriate/ Doable Jobs
Working in the kitchen with a little one is mainly about building confidence and teaching new skills. Providing your child with jobs that he or she can accomplish without help (with supervision of course) goes a long way in boosting their self esteem. Jory recommends the following tasks to get a toddler feeling in charge and successful: wash fruits and vegetables in a bowl of water, adding and mixing ingredients together in a large bowl (extra room for potential messes), pushing buttons on appliances, and using their hands to break apart little pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, or leafy greens.
4. Experiment with Different Kitchen Tools
There are a lot of tools we use in the kitchen that are safe (with adult supervision) for little ones – wooden stirring spoons, forks for mashing, and colanders for washing fruit are just a few examples. Jory uses a lot of OXO brand tools in her kitchen, as they are sturdy and easy to grip. There is also a brand of child-safe cookware from Curious Chef, which includes size appropriate and plastic versions of many adult tools.
5. Setting Realistic Expectations
It’s no secret that cooking with kids requires patience. The process will likely take longer and involve more cleanup than if you had cooked alone, but where’s the fun in that? Provide yourself extra time for possible “corrections” and recipe adjustments after the fun is over and everyone is hungry!
6. Choose Simple Recipes & Kitchen Activities
Three ingredient desserts, personal-sized pizzas, washing vegetables and tearing kale leaves apart for a salad are perfect jobs for tiniest of chefs. Also, teaching the basics of kitchen hygiene are important to introduce early on: washing hands, putting ingredients away, and cleaning the space afterwards are a few examples.
7. Cooking Healthy Meals
When a little one is involved in the preparation or cooking process, he or she is much more likely to eat the fruits of their labor. Use the opportunity to incorporate fresh veggies into pasta dishes and leafy greens into smoothies to teach kids about healthy eating. Jory has a lot of great healthy recipes on her blog that are perfect for cooking with your kids.
Do you have any tips to add when cooking with kids?