“MOM! WAIT” My 3-year-old, Mateo, screeched into the kitchen, pushed his stool up to the counter and climbed up. “Don’t start making supper without me,” he admonished, scanning the area for signs of prep. I had to smile at his enthusiasm as I wrapped an apron around his little waist.
If your little one is anything like mine, he probably doesn’t even need an invitation into the kitchen. Children are naturally drawn to the heart of the home because of the good smells, curious gadgets and, let’s face it, that’s where they find YOU most of the time. But those hands are fast, and attention spans are short. How does one get anything accomplished with a two or three-year-old ‘helping’? Believe it or not, it is possible—all you need is a big helping of patience, a sense of humor and plenty of instructions.
Tips for Cooking with Kids
All Hands on Deck (clean ones, please)! Choose tasks that are suitable for little hands, and be clear on what their boundaries are around the workstation. Don’t forget that praise is invaluable.
Switch Gears. When small children want to help in the kitchen, we need to take a breath and shift gears, going from fast, efficient mode to slower, teaching mode. Pour yourself a cup of patience.
My Way or the Highway. Set kitchen guidelines early and never waver. Brush up on your kitchen safety tips and then highlight the pertinent ones with your children.
Educate and Create. In our kitchen we “Talk & Taste”: children are sponges for information, so we ‘Talk’ and learn about everything we do. As for ‘Taste’, well, that just happens on its own!
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Involving your child in decision-making will help him to feel you are taking his tastes into consideration. Something as simple as choosing the add-in for muffins will give him some ownership and instill a sense of accomplishment.
In the long run, the benefits of cooking with your kids far outweigh the challenges. This is bonding time, where your children can also practice basic math skills, and learn simple cooking techniques, as well as valuable lessons in nutrition – all while fostering creativity.