Allowing children to spend time with us in the kitchen is a great way for them to see, touch, taste, and smell different ingredients before they are made into prepared meals. Kids become familiar with what is going on in the kitchen and they might be more willing to try new foods. I am not saying that they will like the new foods right away (that itself is a long road), but this allows them to try it.
As I mentioned here, when my son helps me in the kitchen, everything takes longer and the mess is bigger. However, when everything is done, he leaves the kitchen proud of his accomplishment.
When my son was around 2 years old, he used to push the buttons on the blender or the food processor. Smoothies were the first thing we did together. I prepared a few ingredients in advance (chopped them and put them on a plate) which he took from the plate and threw in the blender. Then he started the blender and few seconds later the smoothie was ready. Voilà! Done!
Now my daughter follows us into the kitchen and is in charge of the buttons. She loves it!
Some ideas that I found worked and still work when cooking with my son:
- Look through cookbooks or websites with your child and choose simple recipes to make with few ingredients (smoothies, cookies, or popsicles for example). If the whole process takes too long, kids will become bored, stop enjoying the process, and even leave before the recipe is over.
- Do not try new recipes unless you are certain the result will be tasty (for example you tried that particular meal at a friend’s house and she gave you the recipe).
- If the end result is tasty, the kids will be more likely to help us in the kitchen another day.
- Have the ingredients, measuring cups and spoons ready on the counter before you engage your child to come and help you.
- Make sure you are relaxed and get yourself mentally ready for what is to come. The younger the child or the more freedom we allow them in the kitchen, the messier things get.
- Cooking sessions should also be done when the child is well rested and not hungry. Maybe a little bit hungry. Just a little. I find that if my son is ready for a small snack, he tends to try different ingredients. If they want to try some flour, why not? When he first tried the flour, I thought: “Oh, what is he doing?!” Now, I am cheering him on. If he wants to explore and find out how flour, batter, or anything else tastes, I do not stop him as the whole idea about him helping me in the kitchen is to allow him to become open about foods and to learn to enjoy them.
- Have the recipe in front of you and read together (if your child is older, let them follow the recipe on their own); practicing reading and eating something yummy after … why not? And let’s not forget the math skills that they acquire while measuring and adding ingredients.
- And last, but not least, do not discourage your child’s willingness to help in the kitchen. There were many times when I wished my son did not see that I was preparing something in the kitchen so that I could finish my recipe quickly. But I took a deep breath and I said: ”Yes, come and help me. We are making something really good today”.
And who knows, all this hard work might pay off later when they will be the ones preparing supper for us. All by themselves. And clean the kitchen after. I know, we can keep dreaming …
Do you want to read the other tips? Here they are:
Tip #1 – Setting a good example
Tip #3 – Eat together as a family
Tip #4 – Make meal time enjoyable
Tip #6 – Never give up
Do you allow your child to help you in the kitchen? How does it usually go?