How To Cook with Kids without Burning Down the House and Losing your S**T
Cooking with kids. The very idea sends a wave of anxiety down my husbands spine. He's a very good cook. Loves experimenting and his final products typically come out perfect. I'd actually venture to say he's the better cook in our relationship. But he needs total control in the kitchen. Step into his space and you risk your toes being stepped on or sauce splattered in your face -- the man moves fast and without warning, whirling one dish from the stove to the counter, stirring one pot while check the meat in the oven. So yeah, put any small child into that situation and you can see how his nerves might start to unravel.
I, on the other hand, couldn't wait until our little girl was big enough to help me in the kitchen. The majority of my childhood was spent talking to the wall behind our bright orange kitchen counter tops as if I were hosting a cooking show. I'd lay out all my pre-measured ingredients ahead of time, just like on t.v., and instruct my audience in creating the most beautiful batch of chocolate chip cookies. Once Ruth was big enough to stand and had the attention span to scoop and dump, she was up on the step stool right beside me. Since then we've been cooking and baking together on a regular basis. (don't believe me? check out my #ruthiebakes series on instagram!)
Yes, it gets super messy. Sure, sometimes things taste jusssst a bit off. But overall, it's been a wonderful experience during which we can talk about the importance of eating good food and a really fun way for us to spend time together. So whether you're a seasoned mama-chef or hesitate to let those little ones in the kitchen, here are a few tips for starting out and some ideas to make the process less intimidating.
1. Use this opportunity to talk about nutrition and the food that we put into our bodies. Even if you're baking a sweet treat, homemade desserts are often much healthier than store bought preservative-packed desserts.
2. The process of following a recipe, seeing the ingredients combine and then tasting the final outcome all contribute to a sense of pride and accomplishment.
3. Work on your math skills! Ruth is often in charge of counting as we measure the ingredients or add the eggs. I tell her how many cups or teaspoons we need and she keeps track as we add our ingredients. If it needs to be exact, I'll measure it out and let her dump it into the bowl.
4. Cooking together cultivates a healthy relationship with food. This is an opportunity to celebrate food -- dip your fingers in for a taste, sample those raw veggies. It's so tactile and utilizes all of their senses, creating positive interactions with the food, laying a wonderful foundation for their eating habits down the road.
5. Embrace the mess. Your kid would be making one in a different room anyway.
6. Show first. Say, "I'll do the first one and then you give it a try."
7. This is also an excellent opportunity to educate them about kitchen safety! Keep your eyes on those tiny hands no matter how comfortable they are in the kitchen. Keep sharp things out of reach and make it loudly aware if an item or the oven is hot.
8. Cooking shows them that good things take time. They come to understand the beauty of slow food and and begin to build an appreciation for a well cooked meal.
9. And best of all, you're making memories. I take an overhead photo each time Ruth and I bake together and then have them printed through Artifact Uprising. I then write the recipe on the back of each photo and keep them in a little box that I plan on gifting to Ruth once she's older.