Do you like cooking with your kids, but find it all a bit stressful? Do you love the idea of getting your kids in the kitchen, but not sure how to make it less hectic and more fun?
I’ve always loved the idea of cooking and baking with my kids. I think it’s so important for children to watch and learn how to cook from scratch and to have FUN in the kitchen. But when I first started cooking with Little M, I have to say I found it rather a stressful experience! There was mess everywhere, licked spoons, food looking rather dubious…!
It would have been easy to have given up on the idea of cooking with Little M, but instead I just adapted my approach. By being more positive and flexible and by keeping things simple and organised, cooking together became less stressful and much more fun!
Are you looking for ways to make cooking with kids easier and more fun? Don’t be afraid, it IS possible! Here are my 8 Ways to Make Cooking with Kids Less Stressful and More Fun!
Occupy your child with toys, or (gasp!) a little bit of screen time if you need some time to prepare. This is especially helpful for toddlers. You’ll feel much calmer if you have everything ready and prepared before your child is itching to join in! When cooking with kids it’s better to be calm and in control, than feeling like you are fighting fire from the start (not actual fire… that would be bad.. you know what I mean!) Actually I could apply this philosophy to many other things… but moving on…
Have your work area ready
Make sure the table or work surface is clear, clean and ready. If you need any rolling pins or other tools have them out ready too, but leave anything sharp out of children’s reach. If your child still sits in a high chair then have that ready, as they will be more likely to sit still in the place that they usually sit. Have some clean toys, or even better some safe kitchen utensils for young children to play with and explore. I find this useful when I need to occupy Little M whilst I am doing something for the recipe, like melting chocolate. Little M loves playing with the kitchen utensils, especially the hand whisk!
Have all of your ingredients out ready
Kids get very excited in the kitchen and can have less patience than usual, especially toddlers. So get all of your ingredients out ready before you start. I like to have mine out ready on the side board, away from the main table, so that Little M is not tempted to sift through them all! With older kids you can have them help measure out the ingredients. For younger kids just have it all measured out ready to go, or let them help measure just one ingredient.
Make something simple
It sounds obvious, but you can’t expect to cook something complicated with kids and for it to not be a bit stressful! When cooking with kids stick with simple recipes where you give your child quick simple tasks and can make something fairly quickly. Mini pizzas, grilled cheese, cupcakes or crispy cakes are all good starting recipes. I think it’s nice to sometimes make savoury things that they will eat for a meal, as well as cakes and sweet things.
Give them simple tasks to do
Once your child gets older, or better at following instructions, then you might decide to make slightly more advanced recipes. Start out by giving the kids a simple task from the recipe to do, like mixing some ingredients in a bowl and gradually increase their responsibilities. If you have something you just need to get made for dinner, then give your child a few bits to do to involve them, then finish off anything more complicated by yourself.
Expect and embrace mess!
Expect and prepare for mess and then you will be more able to embrace it! Your children are having fun – hence the mess!!! That doesn’t mean you have to be tearing your hair out after every cooking session though. You can easily minimise the mess you have to clean up. Put overalls or aprons on to protect clothes, encourage your child to sit or stand in the same spot and have a sweeper and a cloth ready to clean up any mess as you go along. For very messy projects consider putting a plastic sheet on the floor to make cleaning up easy. You can also never have enough baby wipes in my opinion! Take off any messy clothes in the kitchen to contain the mess to one room.
Have some simple rules
It’s important to have some rules in the kitchen, for safety and hygiene purposes, but keep them simple and easy for kids to follow. We always wash our hands before we start and don’t lick any spoons or fingers until we have finished cooking. Little M also has to keep his hands away from anything sharp, unless I am helping him, or supervising him.
Be positive and have fun!
Your kids will have fun when you have fun! When I first started cooking with Little M I found myself quickly getting very negative about everything – “don’t do this, no don’t do that.” It was so easy to feel frustrated and stressed! However, I quickly realised that cooking wasn’t going to be much fun for either of us with me nagging at him the whole time!
So I relaxed my approach and tried to focus on being positive and having fun myself! I started to really praise Little M’s efforts, reinforce any rules in a positive way and relax about any mess! I now try to model and cook alongside him wherever possible, as well as giving him his own little tasks to do. I like making things like cookies where we both have our own ball of dough to shape and we can have fun together.
So be positive and have fun! Don’t get bogged down in cooking something perfect, just cook something TOGETHER!
Do you like to cook with your kids? Do you have any other tips to add?
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