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Sometimes letting kids help in the kitchen can be a test of patience more than anything else. But, when you teach kids to cook by including them in your meal prep it can pay off for every one.
I’m sure it’s happened before…you’re trying to get dinner on the table for your hungry family and your child wants to help…
Your blood pressure rises as you envision how much longer it’s going to take. Not to mention the much bigger mess it will make. You say in your most disappointed, sorry voice that it’s just not very fun and that they won’t like it, then hurry them out to go do something–anything–until dinner is ready.
But….then you feel bad because you actually do want your kids to learn how to cook and enjoy helping in the kitchen. You know that once they really know what to do that’s less cooking for you!
I know. I get it. I’ve totally been there, and heck, sometimes I still would rather just do it myself because it’s faster and easier. But, I’ve also learned that having my kids in the kitchen is a pretty fun way to spend time with them.
Here are three ways to teach kids to cook by letting them help in the kitchen while you all stay calm and have fun.
Is there a right time and a wrong time to teach kids to cook? YES!
The wrong time is when you’re in a hurry or constrained on time in any way. If everyone is hungry, taking extra time to show techniques or fix mistakes is not what you want to be doing.
Pick a time when you have nothing else pressing going on and everyone is pretty well fed. After a meal or snack is great. Saturdays or Sundays tend to work best for this if you have school aged children, but really any time you have some time is great.
This lets you all relax and take things slowly, which is increases patience and you child will be more likely to listen.
When you’re teaching a child kitchen skills, small and simple is the best place to start. This is not the time to make anything that takes a long time or is elaborate or requires a lot of steps.
Think about the things you want them to know what to make. What will be helpful for you and for them? These are the foods to start with, because if you don’t get very far they’ll at least have the basics.
At the beginning they’re also less likely to have a long attention span. Keeping the recipe it short and simple will give them a sense of accomplishment when they’re done.
When starting out, kids like to know that they’ve accomplished something. They want to feel capable and proud of themselves. But, it’s hard to do when they’re trying to get good at too many things at once.
When you’re cooking together, pick a couple of skills that your child wants to learn or that you want them to know. You can also pick recipes you want them to learn to make and focus on those.
It can be any skill. Like stirring or mixing or spreading with a knife. Little ones can wash fruits and vegetables or grate cheese. If you have an older child they could learn to chop vegetables too.
The key is repetition. So, take the time to show them how to do it right, then have them practice. This could become their new “job” in the kitchen whenever you need it.
For example, my kids love quesadillas. I got tired of grating cheese all the time so I taught my daughters how to use the cheese grater and grate the cheese. It took some practice, but now they do it perfectly fine on their own.
Now they get the tortillas, grate their cheese, put them on a plate and microwave it until the cheese melts. They love being self sufficient and doing it themselves.
Even little ones can wash fruits and veggies if they have a stool, and it does feel like a big help to them.
If you want your kids to help in the kitchen without you losing your patience and it taking way longer than necessary, pick the right time to start, start small, and teach them skills they can master.
One of my favorite recipes to get started with is Healthy Gluten Free Granola because it’s very simple and they can practice measuring and stirring skills.
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