Cooking is a wonderful pastime that you can do with your children. Other than allowing them to discover and practice a wide range of skills, preparing food in the kitchen also presents them with a clearer understanding of food and where it all comes from. It helps build their self-confidence, and they feel the satisfaction of having contributed something to the family. Most importantly, it is one of the most therapeutic and the most enjoyable bonding activity that you can do with your kids.
The very first thing you’ll probably bear in mind is that you will have to choose your recipes carefully, depending on how old your child is. Taking into consideration the short attention span of the really young ones, they should have nothing that would take too long or that would need too much involvement. Simple recipes not only save you from getting really frustrated with the activity, but it also gives the children a sense of satisfaction for having cooked something successfully and deliciously.
Make sure to plan ahead and prepare all the ingredients beforehand. You can involve your little ones in selecting the recipe, listing down and buying the ingredients, down to ticking off your checklist. It also has to be quite clear to you that you cannot do this thing quickly, especially if you have a really under-aged one in your kitchen. Cooking with the children is more likely to consume more than your allotted time, so don’t try to squeeze this in between other appointments. This is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not a cause of undue stress.
Condition your mind to see mess in the kitchen, and don’t panic when you see your neatest child, in utter disarray. Or when you see that your kitchen table, floor and sink are in total chaos. Once you have conditioned your mind, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to the mess. You will make it clear to your young cooks in their kids’ aprons, anyway, that part of being a good chef is being able to tidy up the kitchen after cooking the meal. Encourage taste testing, no matter how messy it could be. Children love to lick the spoon or the entire bowl, don’t get distressed watching them – just be amused and have fun.
Get them involved the safe way. There are a variety of safer ways to keep them involved without inviting too much danger – buttering a piece of bread, cracking eggs, kneading dough and rolling it out with a rolling pin and grating cheese, along with many others.
You can also make it an educational learning experience by letting your child know significant information about the food that you are preparing. Where eggs come from, what carrots can do for our eyes and why milk is important for the bones, to name a few. Getting them involved in buying the ingredients can be enlightening for them, too – a quick visit to the nearest farmer’s market can open their eyes to the variety of food we use to prepare our meals. Continually ask questions to keep them engaged, “what do you think comes next?”
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures! Most adults have vivid memories of themselves in the kitchen when they were young in kids’ aprons and photos help preserve those memories. You yourself would like to have a keepsake of this memory, especially when your small ones cease to become your little babies. Soon they would slowly let go of their dependence on you as they enter adult life, and these memory will be as priceless as the others.