My husband and I have always bonded over food, so when we were expecting our first baby, I was concerned about raising an adventurous eater. Flash forward almost four years, and while our son still has his picky moments, it’s rare that day passes when he doesn’t ask to “help out” in the kitchen. These are the moments I daydreamed about before entering motherhood, right? But I quickly learned how easy it was to get stressed about the mess, the chaos and the time it might add to the whole process. Thankfully, I was determined to work through it. We started small with little kitchen tasks, and once I really learned the benefits of letting our kids help, it was a no brainer to make those daydreams I had pre-parenthood a reality. Here’s five easy ways to cook with your kids and make it a fun experience for everyone!
Invest in a play kitchen.
We bought this little kitchen from Ikea a couple years ago and while it was a pain to put together, I’m so happy we went for it. It was the true start of my son’s genuine interest in “making” food for us and starting the conversation around cooking and baking. We recently picked up more toy fruits and vegetables from this small shop and he still loves playing with them to this day!
Pick up a kids stool.
Our friends bought this adorable step-stool for our son when he was a year old and it’s proven to be such a help when it comes to getting him involved in the kitchen. As far as safety goes, I like that it’s on the heavier side so that we have to help him bring it into the kitchen in order for him to use it. The goal is that he feels welcome — but not so welcome that he gets into something dangerous when we’re not looking. We haven’t purchased any kids cooking utensils and personally I think that’s helped us keep things age appropriate so that there’s no confusion on what he’s allowed to touch.
Start with small tasks.
One of the first ways we got our son interested in what was happening in the kitchen was by helping us make coffee. We have an automatic drip coffee pot and we would let him help us with measuring the water, coffee grounds and pressing the start button. It’s simple, but he loves to help, and I think doing this encouraged both my husband and me to be more open-minded about having him help with more detailed tasks and recipes.
Talk about food!
While he might not be able to help with every step of making dinner from start to finish, he’s very observant and inquisitive when it comes to what I’m buying, making or eating. We let him help where he can, whether that’s in the kitchen or at the grocery store, and we do our best to encourage a conversation about what’s going into our meals and what’s on our plates at the table. His favorite question whether we’re out or at home is, “Mama, what are you eating?” And he loves sharing what he’s eating, too.
Choose something they LOVE to make together.
Nine times out of ten my son will pick out a muffin from the coffee shop when we swing by in the mornings. So muffins felt like a natural place to start with our baking projects. We’ve experimented with numerous recipes like this easy one, but I find that baking (lots of mixing, little heat until everything is in the oven) works great for his age and really helps break down the concept of what’s going into what we’re making. I love that he’s starting to suggest additions that I wasn’t planning on, like these dried cherries. It’s the sweetest!
Have you found any unique ways to get your kids interested in baking or cooking? I’d love to hear in the comments!