My son absolutely loves to take part in the cooking process. I wanted to find safe and fun ways for him to help out in the kitchen as well as get him to learn some real life skills in the process! (Selfishly, I also wanted a way to keep him busy while I was trying to cook dinner for our family.)
I started doing some research and I quickly realized that there are so many benefits that come from getting your kids involved in the kitchen.
- One reason kids may become picky eaters is because they don’t know enough about food. Showing your kids where food comes from and how important food is to our overall health will allow your kids to create a positive connection with food in their minds.
- When kids take part in preparing a meal, they will have a new found appreciation for the cooking process and their taste pallets may expand. You may notice them becoming more enthusiastic about trying new foods.
- Teaching your kids some skills in the kitchen may spark a willingness to help out at home in other tasks.
- Once your kids get more experience in the kitchen, they may even become creative and begin to create their own recipes – they are naturally creative!
- Cooking is a process that involves some key skills and processes. Once they prepare a meal from beginning to end, they may take on new challenges with new motivation.
If your kids really show an interest in cooking, you should nurture that interest and sign them up for cooking classes where they can learn more advanced skills in a safe and fun environment with other kids. One school I recommend in the Vaughan area is Petits Chefs Academy or Le Dolci in Toronto.
FIRST, some safety tips:
Allowing your kids in the kitchen to help cook and create meals can be a fun, however, the kitchen can be a dangerous place for kids. Here are some simple guidelines and safety tips you and your kids can practice to help ensure that time spent in the kitchen is safe and productive.
Here are some great safety tips that I use in my own kitchen from KRAFT Kitchens:
- Before you begin roll up long sleeves, tie back long hair and remove loose clothing that might get in the way or catch on something.
- Wash your hands and dry them well. Wet hands can be slippery.
- If you can’t quite reach the countertop, use a sturdy stool or wooden step to help.
- Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed so you won’t bump into them.
- Wipe up spills as soon as they happen. Wet spots can be slippery.
- Always use oven mitts to handle food on the stove, in the oven or microwave and under the broiler.
- When working with pots on the stove, be sure to hold the handle while stirring to prevent the pot from slipping off the burner.
- Always pick up knives by their handle and do not point them at anyone. Be sure to only use a knife when an adult is close by and with permission.
- Keep electrical cords away from the stove top, oven and sink.
- If you burn yourself, tell an adult immediately.
- Don’t put knives or other sharp objects in a sink full of water. Someone could reach in and get hurt.
- Never put water on a cooking fire – it could make the fire bigger. Call for an adult to help and use baking soda or flour to put the fire out.
- Don’t put cooked food on an unwashed plate or cutting board that held raw food. Always use a clean plate.
- Never add water to a pan with hot oil in it. It could splatter and burn someone.
- Keep paper towels, dish towels and pot holders away from the stove top so they don’t catch on fire.
- Before leaving the kitchen, check that the oven and burners are all turned off.
Special equipment for kids:
Kid-sized and kid-friendly kitchen tools make it easier for them to enjoy their time in the kitchen. Here is a list of a few essential tools:
• Small, sharp knife – small because it will fit into little hands better, and sharp because it cuts foods more easily, making it less likely to cut fingers.
• Small pot holders for small hands make handling hot pots easier.
• Silicone-handled cooking utensils, such as mixing spoons, brushes and spatulas, don’t transfer heat.
• Lots of dry towels – to help promote cleaning up the many likely spills.
Here are a few of the basic skills you can teach your kids and have them try out for themselves:
- Measuring dry and liquid ingredients: Get out your measuring cups and spoons and explain how they work. Take out your recipe and have your kids read out the measurements. Show them how the measurement on the recipe correlates with the measuring cup or spoon. Lastly, have them measure out some of the ingredients.
- Knife Skills: My son is just about 4 years old so I am not comfortable with him using a Chefs knife until he gets more experience. The best tool for him to practice with is a small sharp paring knife.
Set up your kids with a small sharp knife (if they are ready) and a sturdy non-slip cutting board. Make sure they are on a sturdy chair or stool. Get them to chop up any soft fruits and vegetables like: mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, bananas, apples, herbs and leafy greens to start. Guide them if needed. Cheeses are also great to practice knife skills because they are flat and soft.
- Other Handy Skills:
Get crackin’! Eggs are fairly cheap. Another skill I have my son practice often is cracking eggs. He is really good at this one and it is a lot of fun! Set up an entire carton of eggs and a bowl (if the weather is nice, set it up outside). Show them how to crack an egg properly then have them crack those eggs until they get the hang of it.
Whisky business! Once they get the hang of the egg cracking (and there are no more shells), have them use a whisk and whisk all those eggs together. Whisking is my son’s favourite task – I also have him whisk salad dressing ingredients together when I need them.
It’s all about the dredge! Get your kids to help with battered foods. They love getting their hands dirty so have them do the egg dredge and the flour dredge for your battered recipes. Then, you can set yourself up at the end of the assembly line to drop those items into the hot oil.
Kids Cooking Projects:
Kids 6 Years and under will really take an interest in simple cooking projects. If they can see all of the ingredients and the assembly process easily, they will become more confident in the kitchen.Stick to really simple recipes, such as:
- Fruit kebabs
- Tacos or burritos
Other Cooking projects:
Ravioli from Scratch: Use our simple pasta recipe. Make the pasta dough and roll it out. Get the kids to fill them with simple ricotta cheese. Cut the ravioli out and seal the edges using a paint brush and a bit of water. Have them cook the ravioli in some salted , boiling water. Dress the ravioli with a simple brown butter and Parmesan sauce Skills learned: measuring dry goods; making pasta dough, rolling pasta dough; cutting and filling ravioli.
Salads: Have your kids chop the veggies, whisk the dressing ingredients and then have them get in there and toss the salad with their hands (we all know that’s the best way!) Skills learned: measuring liquids, knife skills and preparation.
Fried mushrooms: Have your kids crack the eggs, whisk them, dredge the mushrooms in flour, then the egg, and last the breadcrumbs. Now they are ready to be fried! Show them that when the outer crust of the battered mushrooms turns golden brown they are ready! Skills learned: Measuring dry ingredients, preparation and frying.
I know a lot of you may be nervous about getting your kids in the kitchen but I assure you that it can be a fun an rewarding initiative. I hope this post gets you excited about getting your family into the kitchen – Now get cooking!