Cooking with Kids – Part II
Last week, we talked about all the benefits of cooking with kids. How they not only love it, but it’s great for their development in so many ways. Here now are our top tips and tricks for successful cooking adventures with your little ones:
Allow Enough Time
Cooking with little ones will definitely take longer. Allow enough time so you can all enjoy the experience without rushing or stressing. For little ones, the experience of cooking, mixing, tasting, measuring is as much fun as the end result.
Cooking with children is messy – there’s no getting away from it. This is a time to embrace the mess and let them have fun. Flour will get spilled, surfaces and possibly the floor will get messy, clothes will get covered in food spills and splashes as dirty hands are wiped clean…. it’s all part of the experience. Giving your little ones an apron, will help limit the mess….
Try to stay relaxed about the mess and just prepare for a big clean up operation afterwards. Tidying up as you go along, following them around with a cloth to wipe up any spills and splashes will just cause more stress for everyone.
Get them ready before the ingredients come out
Make sure they’ve washed their hands, hair is tied back and aprons are firmly on before cooking starts. This will not only help limit the mess, but will teach them about good food hygiene habits
Involve them in the planning
Children love being involved in the choosing the recipe they are going to cook – whether it’s some cupcakes, biscuits or something savoury. Involving them in choosing the recipe and buying the ingredients will give them a sense of ownership and a good sense of the full cooking process.
You don’t need a book with specific recipes for children – although these are often a good birthday or Christmas present for little ones. Any recipes which are well written, easy to follow with a number of simple steps will work well. Starting with more simple recipes, rather than anything to complicated is likely to lead to more successful results when cooking with little ones, particularly in the early days.
The more involved they feel and the more ownership they have, the more they will enjoy the experience and the more they’ll learn. Tasks which children love and give a real sense of accomplishment include:
– Mixing ingredients, rolling out dough, juicing lemons / limes, shaking / sprinkling herbs and spices, washing vegetables, weighing, measuring and pouring, pounding chicken in bags to tenderise it, crushing breadcrumbs, painting oil on pastry…
Find an appropriate place for cooking
This may be a work surface in your kitchen, however this can involve little ones standing precariously on chairs so they feel involved. I found this quite stressful at times, worrying they were going to fall off the chair whilst enthusiastically mixing and stirring.
Lots of our customers use our splash mats on the floor as a cooking mat – your little one is safe on the floor and can mix to their hearts content. When you’ve finished the mat can be shaken outside to remove leftover bits and then wiped clean quickly and easily
Use it as a time to learn
Use the time together to teach them about the ingredients in a relaxed way. Children will love learning from you about the ingredients you are using – how fruits / vegetables are grown, where ingredients come from, what happens when you put different ingredients together, the role of herbs and spices, the different cooking techniques and processes you are using…Allowing children to taste ingredients as you go along further adds to the sensory experience – although make sure they don’t taste harmful foods such as raw eggs, meat which hasn’t been cooked etc. Teaching them about using clean spoons to taste rather than dipping fingers in is another good habit to encourage.
Keep them safe
Whilst you want your little ones to be fully involved in the cooking process and give them a sense of ownership and tasks to do themselves, a few key things will help avoid accidents:
- Ensure hands are washed before you start cooking, after handling raw meat / eggs / spicy or hot ingredients and then again when you have finished cooking. As we said earlier, this will encourage them into good food hygiene habits
- Ensure all pan handles turned in and away from the front of the hob and ideally on the back burners – this will minimise the chance of little hands grabbing the hot pan
- Keep an eye on any sharp knives being used and make sure knife blocks are at the back of the work surface, and when using a sharp knife keep it behind the chopping board – minimising the chance of it falling on to little feet if the chopping board is pulled off the surface.
- For very little ones, giving them their own cooking area, free from knives, graters, peelers, raw meat / fish can ensure they feel fully involved, whilst also keeping them safe
- Making sure they’ve got fun, age appropriate tasks to keep them busy will also help minimise the risk of them reaching for something dangerous in a bored moment.
Children will absolutely love cooking with you if you can stay relaxed and have fun with them. Starting with simple recipes, allowing enough time, chatting as you go along and not worrying about the mess along the way will help ensure cooking remains a fun activity which children look forward to and creates happy family memories.