Between school, sports, and other extracurricular activities, it can be hard for parents to find quality time to spend with their kids. One of Sinisa’s favorite ways to bond with the boys is by inviting them to help out in the kitchen. It can be a fun and educational experience.
Having grown up in the age of television food programming, many of today’s kids have a strong appreciation for how food is made and a desire to try some of the recipes and techniques they’ve seen on TV. Jacob’s favorite food show is Cake Boss and both boys enjoy helping bake (especially when they get to help make crepes and smother them in Nutella).
Here are seven tips for introducing kids to the joys of cooking, provided courtesy of the team at Chef Works, a leading provider of culinary apparel for professionals and home cooks alike.
Start Them Young
Like most things you want to teach your kids, the earlier you can get them started, the better. While obviously you’re not going to let a toddler handle a knife or cook at the stove, there are plenty of tasks that aren’t dangerous that will get them excited about food. Give your kindergartener a bowl of green beans to snap, or let your kids dump flour into the mixing bowl when making bread. Kids from almost any age can help measure, rinse, stir, or clean.
When you first teach your kids to cook, you can overwhelm them with complicated recipes and techniques. Instead, try easy snacks and recipes that require very little, but turn out impressive. Simple dips, fruit salads, or easy pizzas are all things that won’t burn out your kids, and that they’ll love to eat when the time comes. The younger your kids are, the shorter their attention span, so you need to make sure that whatever you’re doing is hands on, and produces results fast. It will make them extra excited to get in the kitchen next time, especially if they end up getting a treat at the end.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mess
Kids love messes, and while you may not like cleaning up, it can make cooking all the more fun. Let kids roll out pie dough, stir batters, and smash tomatoes with their hands. Just make sure you teach them how to clean up after each session as well.
Get Kids Their Own Gear
Little hands require little things so consider purchasing a set of kitchen tools that are child sized. Chef Works also sells a variety of gear for kids, so you can get your kids their own aprons or jackets. It will teach them about cleanliness, and maybe even encourage them to be a professional chef someday.
Let Them Be in Charge
After a few lessons in the kitchen, let kids that are old enough take over the planning, prep, and even some of the cooking. Kids will be excited to know that a meal that they came up with on their own is eaten and enjoyed by the family. Of course, you can help them if they request it, or aren’t old enough to do everything on their own, but it’s an amazing sense of accomplishment when they do as much as they can on their own.
Take Them Shopping
Instead of dreading taking your kids shopping, embrace it. Walk them through the produce department, and talk about different fruits and vegetables and their nutritional benefits. Let them touch, smell, and feel the difference between different types of fruits, and teach them about different meats and cheeses. Skip the junk food aisles to limit begging, but instead teach your kids the value of real, wholesome food.
Farmer’s markets are another great way to get kids excited about different foods, and you’ll have a blast watching your kids’ excitement as they learn how different foods are grown and produced. It can teach them to appreciate good quality food that fuels their bodies instead of just satiating them.
Make it a Family Thing
Parenting experts will tell you that eating a meal around the dinner table is important, and it is. You can make it even more special by making the cooking process a family affair as well. Assign each family member a task based on age and ability, and get in the habit of coming together each night to make a meal that is worthy of the best restaurants. You’ll accomplish two things by doing this: First, you’ll be building good habits and spending quality time with your family, and second, you’ll take the pressure off of one person to do all of the work of meal planning and prep. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.
This last tip is so true. Some of the best childhood memories I have are those made in the kitchen and around the dinner table! What other tips would you suggest?