If you’re a parent who’s active in the kitchen, sooner or later your little one(s) will be interested in helping out. You can allow them to lend a helping hand when you’re cooking dinner, or plan a full day of baking together. Whichever route you decide to go down, there’s some helpful advice in this post to help you have as much fun as possible. There’s also a tip or two to help you with the dreaded cleanup…
1. Planning and preparation
Planning ahead can make a world of difference when cooking with children. Although this isn’t always possible, as they’ll pop out of nowhere from time to time asking to help, do what you can to prepare ahead of time. Hand-pick two or three recipes, the more hands-on the better, then allow the child to choose. Getting them involved from the outset is a great way of making them engaged with the recipe.
If for whatever reason you’re choosing the recipe, pre-preparing certain tricky elements is a good step to take when planning ahead. This means you can spend more time with your children having fun, rather than being too caught up in the actual cooking part. At a minimum, make sure you’ve got all of the ingredients out and ready to go.
Cleaning tip: Tidy as you go, and make it into a game. Get a bucket or box each, and see who can tidy away the most things whilst you’re cooking. Whoever’s got the most wins!
2. Talk about hygiene
Hygiene in the kitchen is so important, as we all know. Understanding this is a great skill to teach children and ensures you’ll all be as safe as possible when cooking together. There are countless online resources you can use to get started with teaching children about food hygiene.
It doesn’t just need to be hygiene, either. Cooking with children is a great time to teach about healthy eating and basic food principles. When you’re draining excess fat or using healthier substitute ingredients (this can even be as simple as brown bread or pasta), explain why you’re doing it.
3. Allow them to be experimental
This is an easy – and often incredibly fun – part of cooking with children. This is especially true if you’re cooking together for the quality time spent with each other, rather than how perfect the outcome is.
Going back to choosing recipes, using recipes that you can play around with is perfect for experimenting. If you’re cooking a recipe that can easily substitute ingredients, get together some options and allow your child to choose what they’d like to include. A simple example would be baking cookies: let them choose between white and milk chocolate chips; give youngsters different icing options and use cookie cutters to let them choose their shape. This lets their imagination take over and gets them more engaged.
Cleaning tip: Cooking with children gets messy. If you’ve got surfaces especially susceptible to mess or moisture – such as wood flooring – make sure you clean up any spills as and when they happen.
4. Be patient and have fun
Cooking with children is all about getting them interested – and spending quality time together. Recipes will take longer, so allow extra time. It isn’t about how quickly you can get the recipe finished, it’s about making memories together and having fun. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy yourself!