Cooking is a wonderful family activity that you can enjoy with even small children. It can help your child learn how to follow directions, in addition to creating quality time together. I still remember rolling out wonderful smelling dough to make cinnamon rolls with my grandma and stirring huge pots of family spaghetti sauce with my mom. Without realizing it, I learned lessons about wholesome nutrition that have shaped the way I eat today.
While it is important to keep basic safety in mind (keeping young children away from hot burners, for example), there are a number of tasks that children of all ages can help with in the kitchen. Choosing the recipe, shopping for ingredients, measuring, counting, cracking eggs, stirring, and tasting are all great ways to get kids interested and involved.
Choose the Recipe
From a very young age, children first learn their independence by making choices. This may become evident when your toddler only wants to eat crackers one day and applesauce the next. Encourage your toddler’s active participation in the family meal by giving them two choices for dinner and letting them pick. This idea extends to older children as well. They may even enjoy creating weekly meal planning menus.
My two-year old loves grocery shopping. He is immensely interested in the list of things we are going to buy and will announce by memory what we get every week (milk, eggs, cereal, and juice!). He is always excited to point out the items and help me put them in the cart. When you are preparing a recipe at home, you can ask your child where certain ingredients are so that they can help, even if they aren’t old enough to measure or pour.
Follow the Recipe
Older children can learn valuable math and language skills by counting, measuring, and reading the recipe. Work at your child’s level and don’t be afraid to let them make a little mess. Practice makes perfect! The more your child is able to practice cracking an egg, the better he or she will be.
By following these relatively simple steps, you can enjoy quality time with your children in the kitchen. Buy kid-friendly cookbooks that can help improve their self-confidence and empower them to be great cooks one day.