The kitchen can be a fascinating place for young children. They see grown-ups working briskly in there, watch the steam rise from pots on the stove, and smell what's on the menu that night. Even older kids might be intrigued by how baked goods and meals come together. It isn't always convenient to invite them into the kitchen to help, but consider doing so when time allows.
Younger kids can watch what you're doing and help out with small tasks, like stirring something or setting the table. Older kids can be taught how to crack eggs or measure ingredients. Even teens might be lured into the kitchen if you tell them they can choose the dish and you'll help prepare it with them.
To the kids, it will seem like fun, but there are other benefits to this time together:
Parents get something out of this kitchen togetherness, too. First, there's the quality time you'll share. Then there's the pleasure of sitting down at the table together to enjoy what you've whipped up.
Here are some tips for having fun and staying safe while you're cooking with kids.
If you're going to have kids helping you in the kitchen, you don't want to be on a tight time schedule. Instead of involving them in a dinner you have to cook lightning-fast, enlist their help on a weekend afternoon when you don't feel crunched.
With younger kids, choose a time when they're well-rested and not easily frustrated. It's also a smart idea to have another adult in the kitchen to help you keep an eye on your junior chef.
Plan ahead a little when deciding what you'll prepare together. For younger kids, consider starting with simple dishes with fewer than five ingredients. Then your child won't have to wait it out while you tackle a complicated step. A tossed salad or easy muffin recipe can be good starter projects. You also might set up a pizza-making assembly line where kids can choose their own mini-crusts, sauces, cheeses, and toppings. Older kids can take cooking to the next level and work with you on more challenging recipes.
When you've chosen a recipe, think about which steps your child can do independently. For instance, kids who can read can call out the ingredients from the recipe card while you put them out on the counter. A younger child can help you pour ingredients into a bowl. An older child might be able to measure out ingredients and add them unassisted.
Doing some prep work in advance, such as rinsing the berries for muffins, will make the process move more swiftly. If there's a lull in the action, you might consider giving your child a well-deserved break. Then you can call him or her back in when there's another kid-friendly task to do, or when it's time to taste what you made.
Children need supervision when they're in the kitchen. Preschoolers must learn not to touch whirring electric beaters, hot pans, and stovetops.
Here are some safety tips:
Even older kids will need safety reminders, especially if they're working with appliances and knives, or at the stove.
Kids cannot be counted on to be neat in the kitchen. Even adults have trouble with that. To make your experience together more enjoyable, allow for some extra mess and try to be patient. To prevent cooking disasters, be sure your child isn't measuring ingredients over the bowl — risking a big oops. Instead, you might measure them separately and put them in small bowls, like they do on TV cooking shows.
Even if everything doesn't go perfectly, try to keep the mood light. If the egg gets more smashed than cracked, offer some guidance and let your child try again. Little by little, kids will gain these skills — and feel great once they're mastered.
Last, but not least, be sure to compliment your assistant chefs on a job well done. Offer them first taste of whatever you cooked together — and ask what you should make together next time. Bon appetit!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2011
|Allrecipes.com This site offers more than 40,000 free recipes, plus lots of cooking tips and information.|
|Food Network TV's Food Network goes online with searchable menus and recipes, an encyclopedia of cooking terms, and ideas from celebrity chefs.|
|Tips for Cooking with Kids Helpful tips from PBS for parents who are cooking with kids.|
|Cooking With Preschoolers It may take a little flexibility and prep work, but time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be a culinary adventure you'll both enjoy.|
|Cooking With School-Age Kids Why encourage school-age kids to join you in the kitchen? Because the lessons learned there can be helpful both at home and in school.|
|Kids and Food: 10 Tips for Parents Here are 10 simple tips to help you raise kids who develop healthy eating habits!|
|Smart Supermarket Shopping You don't need to be a dietitian to figure out how to make healthy food choices. Before grabbing a shopping cart and heading for the aisles, read this article to make grocery shopping a snap.|
|About Home Alone Recipes The recipes for these simple and healthy meals and snacks are designed especially for kids to do on their own. Some of these require some help from parents on preparations. But once that's done, parents can feel safe knowing that the kids are snacking healthy, and working in the kitchen without turning on any major appliances or using sharp objects.|
|When Can I Use the Oven and Stove? Want more responsibility in the kitchen? Check out this article for kids.|
|Cooking Tips and Resources Get some cooking basics in this article for teens, including tips on where to find recipes.|
|Take a Look at Cooking Do you like to eat? If so, you might like to learn to cook. Find out how in this article for kids.|
|Kitchen: Household Safety Checklist|
|Healthy Eating Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here's how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.|
|Food Safety Learn why food safety is important and how you can avoid the spread of bacteria when you are buying, preparing, and storing food.|
|Food Safety for Your Family Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.