Cooking with kids can be fun, adventurous and educational. For me, I think attitude is everything. I have to let go of perfection, be open to anything, ready to laugh, be silly and carefree. I sometimes rush to get through the daily grind of life like dishes and cooking, but every once in a while I remember to make those things the good stuff too. I remember when I was a kid watching my mom, aunts and grandmother cooking and doing dishes in the tiny kitchen. They were doing the work the rest of us were glad we were not expected to do and yet, they were having fun, laughing, connecting. They taught me that life happens in the daily grind.
Here are some tips for making it an enjoyable experience!
(Kitchen Helper in the picture of my daughter above)
Go in knowing it’s not going to be perfect but it’s going to be perfectly wonderful
Try not to think about the end product being a magazine-worthy dish, but instead the product of quality time spent together. Let go of expectations and allow the perfection of being in the moment happen. Real life togetherness is messy and beautiful and meaningful.
Make Snacks or Desserts
Snacks and desserts are low pressure (not like dinner for your husband’s boss) and at snack time the kids will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Also, if it the recipe execution fails miserably it’s just a snack…dinner or lunch will be just around the corner.
One-on-One is Best
We’ve all heard the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen…” Having one on one time with kids makes them feel special and seen and heard. Plus, having only one kid helping means Johnny can’t be pouring a cup of salt in the cake batter while you have your back turned to help Janie crack the eggs. The less stress you feel, the more enjoyable the experience will be for everyone.
Goof Off and Boogie Down
Turn on some music and take dance breaks. While the cookies are in the oven, or while you’re waiting for the water to boil is the perfect time for a 60-second dance party…or challenging your son to a spoon licking contest to see who can clean their spoon the fastest. This is about making memories that will last, not just making a snack. Other fun ideas: 1) play the gross food game where you have a contest to see who can think up the grossest food combinations like donuts dipped in mustard 2) Make a face mask with your daughter using the leftover oatmeal from the oatmeal cookies that are baking in the oven…or 3) Toss chocolate chips into each others mouths.
HERE is a funny little video of my daughter after we made some cookies!
Don’t Stress the Mess
Tell yourself that any messes made can be cleaned. In our family cracking eggs and operating the mixer are THE highly sought-after kitchen jobs…and also the ones with the most potential for messes (don’t ask me how I know). Some of our best memories involve the biggest messes and make it all worth it.
Give up Some Control
Give lots of choices but offer 2 choices that you will be happy with either way they choose. For example allow your child to choose from 2 recipes that you have all of the ingredients for. They will feel respected and trusted AND they will be invested in the process and outcome because they chose it.
Keep it Simple
Encourage simple recipes with fewer ingredients for younger kids. If the list is too long or complicated many kids will lose interest and you’ll be stuck to finish the recipe on your own…not exactly quality time.
You don’t have to do it everyday
Give yourself and break and listen to your body and state of mind…If company is coming over and a messy kitchen is going to up your stress, that may not be the day for inviting your child to cook with you. If you don’t have it in you on a particular day to be patient, loving, and clean up the impending mess, grab some boxed cookies or a slice of cheese and call it a snack. Keep the kitchen a happy place where your kids will look forward to some quality time with you.
Invite your child in for PART of the cooking process
This can be while you are making dinner or anytime. For example, my daughter loves to use the hand mixer, so anytime I need to use it, I’ll call her over to help for just that part. My son loves to crack eggs, so anytime I need to crack eggs, I summon him.
Build confidence in a particular skill
Since my son loves to crack eggs, we did a little training session where I taught him HOW to do it properly and now he’s my ‘certified’ egg cracker!
You may also like: 12 Reasons to Let Your Kids Help You Cook
Here’s a great recipe to make with/for kids: Homemade Marshmallows It involves egg cracking and lots of mixing!!
Here are some of my favorite tools for when the kids get involved in the kitchen: