Anyone who has attempted cooking with kids knows it can be a whole lot of fun or as stressful as waiting for your high school exam results to come out. So I have compiled my top tips for cooking with kids so that it can be a fun experience for all.
Kids should be encouraged into the kitchen, they can learn so much apart from the obvious of how to follow a recipe. They also learn to weigh and measure, pouring and spooning skills, time and temperature. The use of kitchen tools, hygiene, food science and about ingredients. A child who understands about good and bad foods is more likely to become a healthy eater.
Don’t forget the whole sensory aspect of working in a kitchen, the smells, textures, tastes and colours. Considering what a child absorbs when in the kitchen it is well worth the occasional mess.
So, my top tips…
- TIME. Allow plenty of time when you are working with a child in the kitchen as a rule of thumb, however long it says in the book that the recipe will take to make, double it (includes clean up).
- MESS. You might as well accept it, it is going to get messy. Always get the child to wear an apron, tie long hair back and roll long sleeves up. Put a baking sheet or tray on the work top for your child to work on, it is easy to clean up the mess if they are just spilling flour, milk, what ever onto the tray. When you have finished the cooking, there is always the mess to clear up, before you kick the kids out of the kitchen (because it is easier to clean up by yourself), give them a task or two to do first. It could be to put some ingredients away, get out the brush and pan and sweep the flour or to put all the dirty equipment in the sink. Just be sure that they get a job which helps with the clean up and as they get older they can get more involved. The last thing we want is to train kids to be able to cook but not to clean up after themselves!
- TOOLS. Choosing the right tools for the job is important. A toddler can learn to cut and spread using a wooden or butter knife but as the child gets older they need to use a cutting knife. Buy one that is a good size for the child, an adult knife is too big. Make sure it is sharp, although it goes against our instincts to give a child a sharp knife, they are more likely to have an accident with a blunt one. Use a suitable chopping board, make sure it doesn’t slip around and that the food doesn’t slide on it – some temper glass boards or plastic boards can be slippery. NEVER leave a child unattended in the kitchen and always pay attention to what they are doing when using a knife or any other potentially dangerous pieces of equipment.
- ASSIGN. There is a truth in the saying, too many cooks spoil the broth and too many little cooks in a kitchen can drive you insane. So, if you have more than one child, assign each child a job or assign one day a week to cooking with kids and take it in turns who helps in the kitchen. Assigning jobs according to age and ability can help too but don’t phrase it so the younger child gets the easy job, make sure everyone knows that each job is equally important.
- WHO’S THE SOUS? Both you and I know who is the head chef when working in the kitchen but you can boost your child’s confidence by demoting yourself to sous chef. Often a child will need help, whether it be cutting or measuring, pouring or whisking, ask if they would like you to help rather than bustling in and taking over, I know it can be hard sometimes! Ask your child what they want you to do, sometimes it is difficult to hold the bowl and stir because of their little arms, maybe they want you to hold the bowl. As they get older, they can read the recipe and tell you what temperature the oven needs to be on or how long the timer needs to be set for.
Although Ebi-kun loves baking his favourite recipe to make is macaroni cheese, tell me in the comments section below, what is your child’s number one favourite recipe to make?