My current 5 super simple tips for how to cook with kids without losing your sanity.
If you are reading this article, chances are you are a parent or grandparent with one or more children around while you are cooking. Are you delighted by all the extra help or stressed by the extra help? Here are a few tips, tricks, and ideas for how to cook with kids while keeping calm.
Welcome to my slightly chaotic, but very functional kitchen. Every single time I cook in the kitchen, I have at least one little helper. Depending upon the age and temperament of the helper, the experience is enjoyable most of the time. This is an ever involving experience, and I encourage you to enjoy the journey of cooking with your kids too.
I go through the five tips and tricks that I am currently using to make the cooking experience with our children as enjoyable as possible. But I am all about learning. If you have any additional tips and tricks, please let me know so we can all learn from each other.
Why have kids involved in cooking?
Cooking is a valuable life skill that can be taught and nurtured. Eventually, our children will grow up and be out of our homes. Involving children in the cooking experience in small ways is a great life skill to nurture at a young age.
How to cook with kids safely?
The level of involvement from your child all depends upon age and capability. But it is best to only keep items that you want them to reach, within their reach. For example, sharp items should be kept out of the way until the child knows how to safely use them.
Over the years I have added different methods for involving our children in cooking. I am always learning and adapting as the children become older and more able in the kitchen.
Five Tips for How to Cook with Kids
1. Focus on the function and flow of the kitchen
Before having children involved in cooking, take a look at your space. Is there a nice workflow to the kitchen? Are you able to quickly and easily grab what you need in the kitchen? Meaning group like items together. For instance, having daily baking items all in the same place so you and your children can grab and use items helps with the workflow.
Typically you will want to group certain items like knives and cutting boards, pots and pans, baking supplies, and measuring cups. Take a look at your space and see if the setup of your kitchen makes the most sense.
If the flow isn’t working, then rearrange. You don’t have to keep the same items in the same space you put them in when you first moved in. Consider changing things up to make the kitchen function better.
Every so often I look at our kitchen to see if the items in the kitchen area are in the best spot to achieve the best flow for our family. But after watching this video about A Step Saving Kitchen from the early 1950’s kitchen, I was able to understand this concept better. Page from Farmhouse Vernacular reviewed the step-saving kitchen, and I found this incredibly helpful.
For our kitchen currently, I can keep a bulk of our most used, common kitchen gadgets and utensils in one main section of the kitchen. This has cut down on the number of times I need to physically move my feet in the kitchen. Which also makes cooking with children easier. This brings me to my next point, which is about where children can be while you are working in the kitchen.
Other Ideas for Kitchens:
2. Designated children working space
If possible, create a few zones in the kitchen where children can safely watch and help you prepare food. For many families, this might be at an island or a peninsula in the kitchen.
In the past, we didn’t have a good option in our rental kitchen. Thus I got creative and used a counter height bookshelf for additional food prep. The children knew that was where they could go and watch and help prepare food.
Fortunately, in our new home, we found a spot where the step stool can permanently be kept.
The reason why we picked this spot is:
- The stool fits perfectly in the space.
- It is under the kitchen sink for easy access for the kids to wash their hands and help with the dishes.
- It is close enough to the action without being right near the stove. Our children love to watch and help me cook on the stove, which can pose a problem sometimes.
- Looking back to the flow of the kitchen, the stool is in front of a cabinet of items I access only once or twice a week, so when I need to move the stool it’s rather easy to move.
No matter the size of your space, if possible create a specific spot where the kids know they can go to help. Ever since I implemented this tip, I no longer have children constantly under my feet, wanting to help, but had no idea where to go. They know exactly where to go and this helps eliminate stress in the kitchen.
3. Easy access for items they need
Along with looking at the flow of the kitchen, create a few spots for the children to have easy access to items they need to use daily. Keeping a few child-safe dishes, napkins, and place settings allow them to have independence.
4. Allow them to be “gophers”
When children are young, even as early as two, they can easily grab accessible items out of the pantry and other areas around the kitchen. Allowing the children to go get items for you does a few things.
One, it helps you out. You don’t need to be the one constantly rushing around the kitchen. Two, it gives little hands something to do. The more I give my children something to do, the more likely they will stay out of my hair. Three, allows children to feel confident in the kitchen. Four, it encourages independence.
For example, if I am making oatmeal for our family for breakfast, the two-year-old knows how to go into the pantry to take out the oatmeal container. The four-year-old, can go into the refrigerator and bring me the milk. Those small tasks allow the children to be helpful.
The more your practice and allow them to be involved in the simple steps of food preparation, the more they will be able to do sooner.
5. Allow them to help with the preparation
I feel like this is a fairly common and simple way to teach children how to cook; allow them to cook with you.
When making cookies, allow them to pour, mix, and create the cookies. If you are chopping up fruit, encourage them to help you chop up the fruit too. We have an extra cutting board and child-safe knife set for this purpose.
Yes, this does make creating a meal or recipe take longer. However, eventually, the children will grow and be able to cook dinner for you. Won’t that be nice!
How to cook with kids conclusion:
Cooking with kids can be a rewarding experience for everyone in your family. Take a look at your kitchen and see if it has a nice flow to it for ease of use for both you and your children. Allow the kids to be involved where they can. Whether the involvement is grabbing items needed for a recipe or allowing the children to set the table for you. No matter how you involve your kids in cooking, know that it is a valuable life skill that will benefit your children as they grow.