As something most of us do every day, cooking is an integral part of our lives and can often be a way that we show our love and care for those around us.
So, you may want to spread the love by getting your little one involved in the culinary process and showing them around the kitchen.
Some children may take to cooking more easily than others, with some much preferring to simply be fed rather than take part in the process behind the meal.
But, cooking doesn’t have to feel like a chore, especially when it’s a fun bonding activity for parent and child!
Not sure where to start with cooking as a parent-and-child team? These tips may be a handy place to begin when deciding to tackle mealtime with your brand-new sous chef.
1. Plan Ahead And Pick A Meal Your Child Enjoys
Choosing a meal your child already knows and loves will be an added incentive for them to take part. Ideally, this should be one that involves steps that they can easily complete either under supervision or with a helping hand from an adult.
To make the process easier, you might find it useful to do some prep work yourself before you get little hands involved. This might include tasks are a little more tedious or too challenging for your child to accomplish in their first cooking experience.
It’s also important to allot an appropriate amount of time for the cooking itself. Cooking with children can often be drawn out and take a little longer than when you’re simply ‘doing it yourself.’.
Remember, patience is key! Set aside some additional time on top of how long it would usually take you to prepare the chosen meal to help ensure your little one’s first exposure to the cooking world is as enjoyable and smooth as possible.
2. Dress Them- And The Environment- Adequately
When your child is painting, you don’t dress them in their Sunday best, do you? Think of cooking in the same vein: fun, but chaotic.
For many of us, cooking brings us into contact with a variety of messy ingredients and when children are involved the spilling risk only increases!
Dress your child in clothing you won’t mind them getting dirty and that also allows them to move comfortably about the kitchen.
This also applies to the kitchen or environment where the cooking is happening. Place an old tablecloth over their workstation to help minimise mess, and complete a thorough clean at the end of the cooking.
3. Maintain A Safe-But-Fun Environment
Remember, cooking with your child is about having a fun time creating a tasty meal but there are some safety risks to factor into your day in the kitchen.
Age-appropriate equipment is fine to place within your child’s reach but you may like to consider placing high-risk utensils somewhere that only adults can access. This includes knives, kitchen scissors, matches, and anything with a blade (like a food processor or a blender).
Contrary to what you may think, dull knives are usually riskier to use than sharper knives for both children and adults (1). Sharp knives will slide smoothly through food whereas dull knives require more pressure or force to slice through something (1).
This may increase the likelihood of slips where you lose grip of the knife. Assign yourself as the designated knife-user in the kitchen with your child to eliminate the chance of them injuring themself.
4. Encourage Tasting And Teach Them Along The Way
What’s an afternoon in the kitchen if you don’t get to taste test along the way?
Encourage your child to hygienically sample their food as they go as this may make the experience more enjoyable and encourage more adventurous eating. Remember, no finger in batter or stirring spoons! Grab a clean spoon each time for sampling-only usage.
You may also like to take this opportunity to talk through the foods being used with your child, what type of food they are and how they can be cooked.
For example, a tomato comes from the fruits and vegetables food group and can be cooked in a variety of ways like roast, grilled or simply as is. This can help your child to familiarise themselves with different foods and help them to overcome fussy eating.
5. Teach Them Food Hygiene
Ensure your child has washed their hands before cooking and between touching raw and ready-to-eat foods.
This is a handy window for you to teach them about cross-contamination between raw meats and other foods, and why surfaces should be wiped clean when preparing a variety of ingredients.
If they’re old enough to understand, you may also like to show your child how to check the dates of items to make sure they are safe to consume, and also to use clean dishcloths and sponges when wiping surfaces when cooking.
It’s also useful to teach them to tie back hair if it’s long to help prevent strands contaminating the meal you are making.
Cooking may sometimes feel like a task rather than a relaxing activity but getting your little one involved with you can make it a fun and educational experience for all involved.
Next time you’re feeling up for a tasty day in the kitchen, why not ask if your child would like to join you?
Has this article inspired you to get cooking with your little one? If so, you may like to start with the following easy recipes:
- Food Network. (n.d.). 6 Surprising Tips for Cooking with Kids. [online] Available at: https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/food-and-nutrition-experts/2017/11/cooking-with-kids [Accessed 28 Aug. 2020].
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