Many young toddlers and babies become interested in the fun gadgets tucked away in the kitchen cabinets, rather quickly. You might have caught your own little one rummaging through your freshly washed and stacked pots and pans. A child’s curiosity is an opportune time to teach them about the world around them, how things work, and how they can play a part in it. Did we say play? Yes, and as a matter of fact, play in the kitchen is a perfect time to introduce your child to the valuable, and rather necessary art of food preparation and cooking. Whether your child is just 1, 5 or 10 years old, there is likely something with the kitchen preparations they can participate in.
While it may cost you more time in the kitchen, cooking skills are a vital part of life and children definitely need to learn the basics about how to prepare food and meals for themselves and eventually their own families someday! Studies have shown that children who help with cooking and food preparations are far more likely to eat healthier, which in turn could mean healthier, happier smiles too. Here, we would like to give you 10 suggestions for kitchen duties and food items your kids can easily help with, which will lay a great foundation to build upon as they grow and are able to handle more difficult preparations in the kitchen.
Baking is one of the most popular firsts for children’s involvement in the kitchen. It comes at no surprise, sweet treats are always a fun delight to make! Have them help you measure out your ingredients such as flour, butter, salt, sugar, chocolate chips, etc. Depending on their age and ability, ask them things like, “the recipe calls for 1 cup, but we are using a half cup, what can you do?” Color coded measuring cups can help your kids distinguish sizes and plastic measuring saucers will prevent any breakage in the case of drops and tip-overs.
Make their Lunch or Breakfast
Whether you are a stay at home parent, working parent, or have school age children, every kid needs a lunch, plain and simple. As a parent, you already have many things to do on your plate, pun intended. From Kindergarten on, most kids are capable of making their lunches, maybe with a little guidance and supervision at first. You can make a list of things they can prepare and walk them through it a time or two. Let this be a time for them to ask for help and also to figure it out on their own. If your child isn’t quite ready to rummage the fridge on their own, line up the items they need, in the fridge and on the counter, and use pictures with words as their list for things to make for lunch. Give them a choice of two or three options they can make for themselves.
Rice, oatmeal, grains, and noodles
For most grains, the water:dry good ratio is usually 2:1, pretty simple. If you have a rice cooker or even just a pot, have your kids, measure, rinse, pour and cover things like rice, quinoa, oatmeal, beans, and noodles. You can turn on the oven or allow older children to do this also, and set the timer. Keep a little list of what cooks for how long, and how high the temperature. Supervise and assist as necessary!
Pressing, mincing garlic and Pressing lemons and Citrus fruits
If you don’t have a garlic press or mincer, consider getting one! This can be one of the most enjoyable activities for kids to do and saves a lot of time trying to manually peel and chop garlic. This can quickly become a game of strength between siblings too! Season veggies, meats, pasta sauces and make garlic bread. Pressing lemon or orange juice is also a great way for them to enjoy some fresh squeezed juice or use for recipes.
Toast is one of the most simple things to “make” and it can be dressed in so many ways for any kind of meal. For breakfast, add bananas and honey with some cinnamon. Lunch, butter it and serve with soup or make BLT’s. For dinner, make some garlic bread or serve stroganoff on top. Show your kids where to adjust the time the toast broils and tell them to try their best not to jump when the toast pops up!
This could sound a bit scary, but there are several safer options you can give older children to use, such as crinkle cutters, to chop veggies into a neat shape they may eat! Kitchen scissors are also an option to cut foods like quesadillas, pizza, and carrot tops.
Often a tedious task, this can be fun and entertaining for kids. If you don’t wash your produce, you should! Supermarkets often have produce wash in the produce section but you can also make your own with equal parts vinegar to water or use Castile soap.
Stir things up
When you are in the middle of putting a soup, salad, or cookie batter together, recruiting one of your kids for stirring duty while you continue on another dish or collect ingredients could be a great option for you both! Mashing potatoes is a fun chore too!
Meal Planning and Shopping
Perhaps one of the greatest ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen is planning meals together. This can help you get to know their tastes and teach them about a balanced diet. Sit down with a pen and paper to write out some meals and a corresponding shopping list together. Bonus: Take them grocery shopping with you! Another valued skill is teaching kids how to pick out delicious, ripe produce, spot sales, and shop to budget. Young kids can help collect things like canned goods (watch for stray items!) while older kids can help you find the right aisel and cross items off your list.
Last but definitely not the least, cleaning up the kitchen. After all the fun is done, have kids help you collect dirty dishes, pots, leftovers, trash, and take care of it. Young kids can easily load the lower dishwasher rack (with some help perhaps) and older kids can grab a stool or chair and help out with the dirty work in the sink, wipe counters, put away food and leftovers, sweep, mop, etc.
Recruiting your little ones into the kitchen can be a fun and enjoyable experience. Your kids won’t forget it, neither will you, and the time spent together is time spent well. In teaching your children about food and cooking preparations, you are creating a positive, healthy perspective in them toward food and home duties as well as preparing more than just a meal; you prepare them for their own future and leave them with great memories, messes and all.