Many people think young children can’t help cook. There are lots of reasons why not:
- Dangerous heat
- Sharp knives
- Juices and Oils (Pepper residue anyone? Wipe your face after cutting those puppies… I have! Its not pretty!)
- Waste of ingredients/improper technique
- (This one is mine) Its MY alone time! Why let children ruin it?
Well, despite all these very good reasons why not, there are many reasons TO have the rascals in the kitchen while you cook.
- Teaches them safety: They’re gonna have to learn sometime! It is more dangerous to chase them out, and have them run into a hot stove, or Mom carrying a hot pot unexpectedly, than to have them stick around, and teach them how to avoid these things permanently.
- Teaches them math and measurement in a practical, experiential way.
- Teaches them self control: Don’t lick that! It has raw eggs in it! OR: Only ONE testing cupcake!
- Teaches them following directions: Put wet ingredients together, then dry ingredients together, then combine the two.
- Helps fine motor control: All that stirring. Ever had a 3 year old try using tongs?
- Teaches science: Chemical reactions anyone?
- Good bonding time: I have my kids sprinkle love into things before we cook it.
Now, we don’t have to have the kids in the kitchen EVERY time we cook, but as a rule, its a good idea. On holidays, on weeknights, I usually have my kids in the kitchen with me. At first it was out of necessity, my husband worked second shift, I did not, and I needed to supervise my wee hellions closely, but then it grew into a wonderful bonding time. I found little ways to include them before long, and it was fun!
- Have alternate activities! I have in my kitchen, the following: a kids kitchen set and play food/dishes, coloring books/crayons/glue/scissors/stickers all stashed in a drawer, pandora station is always playing on the laptop, and homemade playdoh/cookie cutters/rolling pins in one cabinet.
- Think of little jobs as you go: I have my children clean veggies, strip them of nasty parts (taking ends off of green beans for instance.) retrieve/put away/dump in ingredients, knead dough, place things on cookie sheets, stir, mix, pour, push buttons as needed, get needed utensils and things, put dirty dishes in the sink, and watch the timer while they color.
- Cook from scratch: My kids HATE opening a few cans and then setting it out. I know it takes extra time, but making flour tortillas from scratch is fun, easy, and something my kids LOVE doing. It is built in bonding. Don’t skimp on the amount of time you commit to your children, they know when you do. You’ll eat healthier too. Some recipes we love making together: salads, baked goods, homemade tortillas, vegetable soup, meatloaf/meatballs, and eggs in a hole.
- Involve children in decision making: They love to eat a dinner they’ve not only cooked, but chosen for themselves. You’d be surprised the great choices kids make when given the chance.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try try again! oh, and make good friends with All Recipes.
Good luck and happy cooking! Here’s a recipe to get you started: (I highly recommend clicking on the link, it contains step by step directions. Cooking playdoh for the first time can be a bit difficult to master. After you’ve cooked it once, you will not need step by step directions anymore, but for the first time, its a good idea.)
Playdough is a classic childhood toy everyone can have fun with, and it’s so easy to make at home you’ll never buy that stinky store variety again.
Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)
food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened drink mix)