If motherhood were a house, and the different areas of parenting expertise were rooms, the one place I feel extra confident is in the kitchen. I love to cook, and my kids love to eat. And most of the time, they even love to eat what I cook!
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “how do you get your kids to eat that?” The answer is twofold. First, I don’t offer anything other than what I cook, so if they are hungry, they will eat it, or at least try it. (This advice does not apply to kids who have sensory issues or other disorders. Not all kids will eventually eat if they get hungry enough.) Secondly, I welcome and encourage their help in the kitchen.
Getting them hands-on, knee deep in the process of creating food serves many purposes, the least of which is getting them to actually eat things I cook. The time we spend in the kitchen, they learn to follow instructions (and eventually read them), measure ingredients, become familiar with fractions and eventually add, multiply, and divide them, and baking is full of all kinds of science. Not to mention cooking is an important life skill, and the earlier lessons begin, the better!
My kids are currently ages 8, 6, and 5. They have worked alongside me since they were around age 2. I’m no Master Chef, and they certainly aren’t ready for the next Kids’ Baking Championship, but if you are wondering how you can get your kids started in the kitchen, I’m here to help!
What You Need
Our first kitchen was a tiny galley style, so I used these small, inexpensive folding stools. If you have room and money (or are super handy at building things), I suggest investing in one of these super-nifty Helping Towers.
I got a set of these plastic kid-friendly knives. They are a great learning tool and actually work to cut fruits and vegetables that aren’t too tough, like mushrooms, bananas, zucchini, and squash. For vegetables you like diced very small, a quick chopper is a great way to let the kids help and keeps their fingers safe. I also have a vegetable spiralizer that works on a crank. I can’t tell you how much fun the kids have turning zucchini into noodles!
I don’t have a link to this one. It’s priceless but you’re going to need it in abundance.
Any Kitchen Appliance with a Button
Especially for the very young, let them push the blender button or pulse on the food processor. As they get older, let your child handle the hand mixer or immersion blender. Trust me, this is probably their second favorite thing.
Perfect for tasting (which is really the best part no matter how old you are). Don’t just ask your child if they like it. Ask if the sauce needs more salt. Does the recipe have good flavor? Does anything need to be added? This challenges them to really think about the food, including what they like and don’t like about it. Most of the time if they taste it while it’s cooking, they are more than happy to eat more at the table.
This doesn’t mean just desserts! Kids love to stir things, they love cracking eggs, most kids don’t mind getting their hands dirty, and they have short attention spans. Keep the recipes basic at first. Things like homemade meatballs, individual pizzas, pancakes, even getting them to help you skewer kebabs are great starter recipes.
Don’t be Afraid of Failure
You might not be the best cook, but working together with your children can be a wonderful learning experience for everyone. Sometimes there will be too much salt. Sometimes the bread won’t rise. Keep trying! If nothing else, you child will learn perseverance and patience – and that a willingness to try again will eventually lead to delicious results!