Cooking With Kids: Ways to Involve Young Children in the Kitchen

One of the themes this month at Keeper of the Home is cooking with little ones… whether it means learning to include them in your cooking endeavours, or finding creative solutions to be able to cook from scratch with the time constraints of caring for your children!

I love to involve my children in the kitchen. It’s educational and in my opinion, it’s crucial for them to learn how to prepare nutritious, whole foods as a life skill that will serve them enormously as they grow up.

I know that many of you also value inolving your children in the kitchen. In fact, I took a gamble and decided that YOU, my amazing readers, would write this post for me! Naturally, you came through with style and many useful suggestions.

After opening up the following question on Twitter and Facebook here’s what you had to say:

“What are your tips and tricks for cooking from scratch with young children?”

Twitter (140 characters or less!)

@jediyara: keep it simple, involve them when you can, be okay with a bit of mess, and plan ahead!

@HomeEconHowTo: Involve them when you can, cook when they are napping when you can’t involve them, keep things simple.

@multitaskingme: one step at a time and clean as you go

@Milehimama: Let them help. Measure, dump, stir. I give them their own little nub of dough to knead, too.

(Then she added: and they love to help me sort beans! http://bit.ly/b5wxxO)

@CoggieTM: show them how much is what by dumping a teaspoon of… Dry spice… Into their hand. They then feel the difference in amounts.

@tamiliasoriano: Choose a time of day that is not close to sleeping time. Keep it simple. Go out of your comfort zone. Let them get messy!

@DelightingDays: Expect mess, get all the ingredients out first, relax, don’t rush, teach them how to stir slowly :)

Image by Tasslehoff Burrfoot

Facebook

Tawny Brown: They are always in the kitchen with me, so they know what to do. I have them help “chop” things with butter knives, and they love to stir things. My daughter is getting older and able to help with more prep work. My son likes to sprinkle seasonings. They sit on bar stools, the counter, or stand on regular step stools. We do measurements and learn those differences, we make it fun, and educational.

Amy “Starcher” Joel: Accept that it will get messy and measurements won’t be perfect – then enjoy their enthusiasm and eagerness to help :D

Laurie Bostwick: Don’t underestimate what they can do. Allow them to try everything (within reason, of course). And know that it’s going to take a bit longer and may even be a bit messier….but the payoffs will come when they are older and can cook by themselves, because they had the opportunity to learn when they were young.

Kristin Kilcup: If they’re really little (like under 2), pre-measure stuff and let them enjoy dumping it in. Otherwise let them scoop and dump. A few months ago I taught my 5 year old son how to cook/flip the pancakes, then stepped back and watched him teach his 4 year old sister–boy, were they proud of themselves!!

Jane Allen Montgomery: I make a …story of what I am doing…like I am doing a Cooking Show…he loves that

Amy Moran Sanscrant: Aprons are important to us. There will be messes and aprons help so much with the entire mess issue. We also have a farmhous table with a bench on one side for our little ones. When we are cooking, I set the bench up as their work area. …It’s the perfect height for our 3 and 5 year olds.

Ashley Chenard: Let them help where they can, dont fuss over a mess bc you can always ask them to help the cleanup process as well (teaches responsibility) It can be quite enjoyable especially when you make it into a game or ‘fastest cleaner’ contest.

Julie Clendenning: I find that by involving the kids in cooking they enjoy eating the food much more…especially if you are cooking a healthy meal that they normally dont like, they are more apt to try it and like it if “they made it” (ie: washing potatoes for supper, or helping to pick squash from the garden)

Darcy Baldwin: Get ‘em up there early! I had my boys helping me pick fruit from the store, getting boxes off the shelf, loading carts, putting up groceries, planning menus (do you want___ or this___ ), helping create pb&j sandwiches as soon as they could …manage dragging a knife across the bread or a spoon in a jar and slopped to the bread, etc. They even helped wash dishes after so that they got the full cycle from planning to cleaning up. You can’t expose enough early on to get them comfortable in the kitchen!

Image by hello-julie

Robin Gold: patience, patience, patience!

Lori Matheson-Smith: I would not make breakfast or lunch so they could have the opportunity of cooking and learning how to make their own foods.

Therese Asmus: I cook with my son who just turned 3. I have to or I’d never get new recipes up on my blog. :-) It’s our learning time. We work on counting, as we measure things into the bowl. Like Robin said, they also learn to follow directions, at least… most of the time! :-)

Melody Green: My 4 year old loves to help by dumping in ingredients (for now, I measure and he dumps it in), stirring, getting ingredients for me, practicing cutting with a butter knife, and I just showed him how to use a vegetable peeler.

Lindsay Burden: My little one is only 14 months, so I try to get as much prep done as I can while she’s napping. It’s not uncommon for me to start dinner at 2pm just so there’s less to do once she’s awake. I also find the time in the morning before she wakes up to be good for getting veggies chopped, marinades made, etc

Stacy Harlow Gaytan: Since they all like to take part, I try to turn as much of it as I can into a lesson (we’re homeschoolers) The easiest time to let the 2 boys (6 & 4) help…adding stuff to the crockpot. A large opening, nothing to really mess up, and no hot flame, or kneading bread :)

Michelle Doyle: Keep it fun and set them up for success to build confidence in the kitchen. Teach fundamentals like reading a recipe completely through before starting, gathering all the ingredients first to make sure you have everything, getting the utensils needed, then starting to follow the recipe. Another important thing is teaching to be responsible by cleaning as you go and cleaning up at the end.

Dawn Craig: when they are really young like high chair age, put them in the high chair with something special that they only get then, in the summer some small plastic bowl like the ones that come in the packs from gladwar…e sets and spoons and a little bit of water, not much will make them happy. You can put a towel under the chair so that it’s easy to clean up. Other ideas for older toddlers can be crayons or markers with a special coloring book or play dough….

Your turn… what are your tips and tricks for cooking from scratch with young children?

Top image by qwrrty

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Hello, after reading this remarkable article i am as well cheerful to share my familiarity here with mates.

  2. I completely agree with having to be ok with some messes. With kids, messes are going to happen – get over it. let go of your perfectionist ways!
    It’s funny you posted this – it caught my eye because I just started a video series on my blog where I bring my son into the kitchen and let him cook a kid-related recipe with me. It’s so much fun!

  3. Hey Stephanie! I just wrote a post with a list of websites that have changed my life and yours is one of them. :) I just thought you’d want to know in case you wanted to check it out.

  4. My 5yr old loves baking alongside me. She has her own bowl and spatula, and as I measure ingredients into my bowl, she gets a little bit too and copies me. This works really well for muffins and biscuits. It gives her the feeling of independence, and the end result is real food (my batch) which she gets all the credit for.

  5. My daughter LOVES to help in the kitchen! We have something called “The Learning Tower” that is enclosed on all sides but which children can climb in and out of themselves. I love it because they can’t fall but they can be up near what I’m doing. It says kids should learn to use it around 18 months. My daughter learned to use it at 15 months and my son learned to use it last weekend and he’s not even 14 months yet! They are climbers and they LOVE to be involved!

    And if I don’t want them in my projects, I fill the sink with water, push their Learning Tower over there, hand them some plastic toys and let them go to it. It’s messy, but keeps them occupied nearby when I am cooking.

  6. My daughter is 27 months and loves to pat out dough for bread, roll up the rolls, turn on the wheat grinder, pulse the food processor, and put chopped food into containers. She loves washing the kale or spinach in a big bowl of water in the sink. She helps load up the dehydrator with fruit and loves licking the honey spoon any time we measure out honey. We do dishes together daily. She can even unload the silverware from the dishwasher now all by herself. I figure the more I involve her now, the more I can sit back and let her take over when she gets older :)

  7. We got my 2-year-old a Kitchen Helper for his birthday… but it’s been even more of a gift to me, I think! It’s great to have a way for him to be up at the counter with me, helping me stir, helping with dishes, or just watching, without worrying about him falling off. :) I also get a lot of my cooking done while he naps, or before he wakes up. I’m planning to do a monthly freezer cooking day, and my mom will watch him. :)

  8. My husband bought me a long white table (the kind often used for yard sales) which is height adjustable. We are blessed to have a pantry off of the kitchen, so we’ve made that the cooking/ baking room as well! There’s plenty of room for my 2 and 3 yr. old girls to “work” along side of me, and the kitchen stays a lot neater, too!

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