Kids in the Kitchen—Joy or Disaster?

By Lisa Holcomb
It can be so much easier to cook when we do not have to worry about our children in the kitchen at the same time. Boiling pots, sharp knives, and children are not always a good match. But, I remind myself of all the reasons these little chefs should be allowed to help. Yes, mealtime preparation can take longer, but there are so many wonderful benefits our kids can reap from working alongside us in the kitchen. From toddler all the way through the teen years, our kids want and need to be in the kitchen. What are some of the reasons we should encourage our kids to discover the world of cooking?

  • Kids are more likely to eat what they make. It doesn’t mean that they will devour the spinach or asparagus that they have helped to make. However, they are much more likely to at least try it. And who knows? Maybe they will devour the spinach.
  • Cooking can help kids learn about nutrition. Use your time together in the kitchen to teach your children the importance of good nutrition. Encourage them to try new foods.
  • Sensory awareness. Cooking and baking can expose your small child to new textures, tastes, colors, odors, and more.
  • Language skills. Reading food labels and recipes can help your children improve their reading skills and learn the meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • Simple math skills. Many recipes can be doubled or halved, which will require math skills such as dividing and multiplying.
  • Safety. Cooking helps children learn about being safe in the kitchen. There can be so many dangers in the kitchen for small children. They start safely learning from a very young age just what those dangers are when they are working under a parent’s supervision.
  • Sense of contributing. Kids need to be able to contribute to the family and feel like they play an important part. Cooking and creating in the kitchen can give them that sense of contributing to the family. Working side by side with mom in the kitchen can make kids of all ages feel valued and appreciated.
  • Cooking together is wonderful bonding time. This is so important. With my two youngest boys, whom we adopted at the ages of four and five, cooking has proved to be a great way to bond. Older kids, as well, still need that special bonding time.
  • Boosting self-esteem. Talk about a great way to boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Let them get creative in the kitchen and then praise them for it. Make sure you don’t end or start the praise with negative criticism about the “mess” they might have made.

Remember, cooking with kids doesn’t mean you have to cook a four-course meal or a fancy dessert with them. Keep it simple. The more they can do by themselves the better. If you’re looking for a curriculum to help teach kiddos everything from basic cooking to safety in the kitchen, check out our Cooking With Kids: 12-Week Curriculum Course for a great way to get started.
Ready to get cooking with your kids? Enjoy this Cooking With Kids recipe from Bon appetite!

“Under the Sea” Soup
4 C water
4 tsp chicken bouillon base
4 hot dogs
1 C baby spinach
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. While water is boiling, slice each hot dog in half crosswise. Leaving about an inch for the “body” (the cut end), slice the curved ends lengthwise into 8 “tentacles.”
Add 4 teaspoons bouillon to the boiling water and stir in. Add the hot dogs to the broth and simmer for six minutes. Stir in 1 cup baby spinach and simmer for two more minutes.
You can purchase nitrate-free hot dogs from most major grocery stores if you’d like. If you’d like to see step by step instructions with photos, you can look HERE.

Lisa and her husband, Will, have six children (her oldest two children are married and have babies of their own) and live near Austin, Texas, with their four boys. Lisa is co-founder of Build A Menu and is known as the “Queen of Meal Time Makeovers.” She is an author, speaker, and an advocate for adoption, family nutrition, savvy grocery shopping and family dinners. Feel free to email her at [email protected].

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