Encouraging youngsters to take an interest in the kitchen from an early age has many benefits for the whole family. Not only does it help them to learn about healthy, nutritious eating but also creates quality time with their parents and can ignite a life-long passion for cooking. And it can be exciting and super-fun too as they mix, roll, measure, and bake their way to enjoying delicious, home-made food.
So, if you want to share the kitchen with your little ones, then read on as we have six ways to inspire children to enjoy cooking.
Encourage their creativity
To you, the kitchen has a clear function – to cook meals and eat – but to a child, it can be a place where their imagination can run wild. And encouraging creativity as they learn to cook can bring the whole experience to life. From using their favorite toppings to make faces on a home-made pizza to elaborately decorating their freshly baked cupcakes, there are many ways you can turn time in the kitchen into a tasty, creative adventure.
Let them create their own menu
Foster your own mini chef by letting them come up with their own special menu which they can serve to mom and dad. Ask them about their favorite foods or sit down and look through some colorful recipe books with them to explore different meals and ways of cooking. Then take them shopping so they can pick all the ingredients themselves. It doesn’t have to be complicated – spaghetti Bolognese with a fruit and ice-cream dessert, for example – and you can help them with the prep and oven work. Invite them to set the table too and then watch your youngster’s happy satisfaction as their family sits down to eat a meal they have cooked.
Let them get hands’ on
Kids love to get stuck in and this is where cooking and baking with mom or dad really comes into their own. Try to involve your little one in each stage of the cooking process, from prepping the vegetables and weighing the flour to mixing, sieving, and whisking. If you have kitchen appliances such as food processors, then let them help you with that too – pressing the on and off button when asked means they can safely watch and learn while still being involved. Letting your child get hands on is also good for their motor skills and coordination as well as a natural way for you to teach them about all-important kitchen safety.
Make it a learning experience
Yes, cooking is fun, but it can also become a wider learning experience and can support their education and outside interests too. Bring in geography and history when talking about the ingredients you are going to use and use nature as you discuss where the food has come from. Let your child bring his own knowledge to the kitchen table too and make some of the cooking process a fun science lesson if you can – physics, chemistry, and biology are all present in your kitchen if you look for them!
Use fun utensils
Crazy shaped cookie cutters or pretty cupcake cases are inexpensive to buy and will be a colorful, fun way to get your child enjoying their baking. Or look in your kitchen drawers and see what fun utensils you already have – from whisks and bold colored spoons to icing bags and patterned nozzles. Setting the kitchen up as a mini art room and giving your child the chance to play and create as they help you to cook will leave them wanting to come back another time to do more.
Don’t be afraid of mess!
One thing you can be sure of when it comes to bringing your youngsters into the kitchen is that it will be a pretty messy business – and that is a big part of the fun. So, resist the urge to consistently clean or get uptight and go with the food everywhere flow. You can do some damage control by ensuring everyone is wearing an apron and cover the work surface with a plastic tablecloth but otherwise let your child have free rein as they enjoy the whole cooking experience.
You can then make the washing and cleaning up part of the process, getting your child to help you tidy the kitchen once the baking is done.
And finally, once the dishes have been washed, the biscuits have cooled and the icing has set, don’t forget to congratulate your little cook for a tasty job well done!