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How To Get Kids In The Kitchen

Written by James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by Photograph courtesy of Sarah Waldman

We all know the kitchen is the most popular room in the house, whether it be for cooking, snacking, or just catching up—it’s a comforting place. That’s why it’s important to take it a step further by letting the kids help out when it comes to planning, prepping, and preparing meals. Not only are children great little sous chefs, they also like to eat the food they help make. Besides being a wonderful way to spend time together, it’s also a great opportunity to talk to them about healthy ingredients and teach them life-long skills. If you haven’t yet introduced your kid to cooking, it’s never too late. Here are a few good ideas on how to do so.

Meal Plan Together. Let your kids have a say in what’s on the menu each week. Talk to them about their favorite foods and meals, and break out the cookbooks, so they can choose something new and exciting for the whole family to try. Getting the kids involved in the process is a great way for them to be open to discovering new foods.

Hit The Supermarket Together. Let your child know where his or her food comes from, whether it be the grocery store, the farmer’s market, or the garden. Ask them to help you find and cross-off the different ingredients on your list. This is a great way to spark interest in cooking and it makes them feel like they are apart of the decision-making process. Talk to your child about the different vegetables and fruits as you pass by, letting him touch and smell them, and take some home to try.

Start Slow. When first starting out, you’ll want to work with foods that kids are familiar with, so they’re not intimidated. You can make healthy versions of pasta, muffins, salads, and smoothies that are simple and delicious. You could set up a pizza-making station where kids can choose their own sauces, protein, cheeses, and toppings. Once your mini chef gets comfortable in the kitchen, you can slowly start introducing new foods and dishes, which makes trying unfamiliar vegetables, spices, and tastes less scary.

Talk Safety. Before you begin, go over a few kitchen rules such as washing hands and not touching stove knobs or sharp knives, and other important safety measures in the kitchen, i.e. what’s not okay to touch and which items can hurt them. Explain (and remind) why tasks are meant for adults only and encourage them to ask before doing. You’ll want to remind older kids of safety measures, as well, especially if they’re working with knives, appliances, or the oven or stove.

Help Making Lunches. An easy way to continue the cooking fun (and make mornings simpler for you) is by letting your kiddo help make their own lunch the night before. The lunch box is a great place for kids to make things on their own and explore new foods. Preschool kids can help pick out what they want to eat and put snacks in the containers, while older kids can make their own gourmet sandwiches and chop fruit and veggies.

Choose The Right Tasks. Arrange kitchen duties by age group or ability. Preschoolers will be great at helping collect and wash vegetables and fruits, pouring ingredients, mixing, and seeing how the dishes they eat are put together. You can begin to explain the terms “teaspoon,” “tablespoon,” and “cup” and your child can help measure each ingredient. This is a perfect opportunity to practice counting, as well as keeping track of how many cups or tablespoons have been poured. School-age kids can learn the cooking basics and use their math skills as they help combine ingredients for recipes. Teens can use their cooking knowledge to expand into trying out different dishes and cuisines, and hopefully, creating their own!

Gear Up. The goal here is to make cooking into a fun, exciting experience, so your kids grow an affection for it. Get them their very own cookbooks like Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls by Betty Crocker or The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson and let them choose a recipe from them at least once a week. You can also get some matching aprons, which makes things a lot more fun and keeps clothes (somewhat) clean. Once you have your recipe, put on some music, and get to cooking. Bon appétit!

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