“Why did you throw a LEGO in the flour?”
“No! You can’t eat raw chicken!”
“How did the baby open that jar of Nutella!?”
These are all real-life scenes from my kitchen in the past month. As a mom of five kids ages eight and under, I will be the first to admit that letting my children help in the kitchen isn’t always something I look forward to. Because – let’s be real – letting kids “help” almost always takes more time and energy and creates a bigger mess than cooking alone.
However, I’m here to encourage all my fellow moms and dads, and tell you that even though it may be more work, including our kids in the process of cooking and baking is truly worth it! So today, I’m going to chat about the benefits of letting kids help in the kitchen, as well as practical ways to make it more fun for everyone.
Benefits of Cooking with Your Kids
Cooking together creates memories
The number-one benefit of including our kids in the kitchen is that it creates memories they will carry with them for a lifetime. Remember when Daddy burnt the cookies? Remember when Joe spilled flour all over himself? Remember when Mommy lost her ring in the lasagna? Some of my most cherished memories as a child come from traditions we had in the kitchen, and I want that for my kids as well.
It may take longer, and it is definitely a whole lot messier, to let the kids measure, chop, mix and spread, but they will remember that Mom and Dad loved spending time with them in the kitchen. They will associate cooking and baking with quality time and love, which is a feeling that will stay with them forever.
Letting kids help in the kitchen encourages them to try new things
Over the years, I have found that if a child is given responsibility to help create a dish, they are more likely to try it and like it!
Instead of hiding vegetables your kids’ food, let them be the ones to add them to a dish. It’s important they understand what is in their food so they develop healthy eating habits.
For example, if you’re making spinach muffins as a healthy breakfast, let your child put the spinach into the blender, blend them up and bake them. Then, when they take a bite, they may find that they actually do like a vegetable that they would not have eaten otherwise!
Learning to cook is a lifelong skill
Teaching your children to cook is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. You are setting your sons and daughters up for future success by teaching them culinary skills at a young age.
6 Tips for making cooking with kids FUN!
If you’re groaning on the inside thinking, “Ok, I see the benefits of including my kids in the kitchen, but I’m tired and it’s messy.” I feel you momma! I just had my fifth baby and sometimes the thought of adding something extra to our day is overwhelming. But please hear this, they are only little for such a short while. Let’s not let it pass by without creating fun memories and traditions in the kitchen.
Before you invite your kids into the kitchen, take the time to:
- Gather all ingredients, tools, and appliances, and arrange them in the order you’ll need them
- Print the recipe (you don’t want them spilling flour on your phone or computer)
Keep it simple
Even though you’ll be helping, try to choose a recipe that your kids can make on their own. True story: the other day I made banana bread with my oldest daughter. When my husband came home she said, “Look daddy! I made this banana bread all by myself, except mom helped me measure and add a few ingredients and put it in the oven.” In reality, I executed about half of the steps, but letting her fully be in charge of the other half made her feel like she accomplished it all on her own. She was so proud of that loaf of banana bread she talked about it for days!
Give everyone a job
Give an age-appropriate task to each child who is able and willing to be part of the fun. I taught my kids by age four to peel and cut vegetables (with my supervision of course), crack eggs, measure, pour, stir etc.
If you have very young kids, the goal is usually to keep them busy. I give my one-year-old a set of old measuring spoons and a bowl of flour to play with while the other kids help cook.
Expect a mess
Remember that little kids are still developing their fine motor skills, and they will be clumsier than you and me. They will pour half of the ingredients on the counter instead of into the bowl, spill an entire gallon of milk on the floor, drop a whole egg (shell and all) into the batter, and surprise you with many other wonderfully messy mishaps.
Just roll with it. Instead of getting frustrated and doing it yourself, help them learn from their mistakes so they do better next time. Also, let them clean up their own messes so they understand why it’s important to try not to get too crazy in the kitchen.
Use a fun appliance (like the Vitamix, of course)
Fact: Kids love buttons, lights, and loud noises. Using a kitchen appliance like the Vitamix makes the whole process more exciting. Let them add ingredients to the blending container, snap the lid in place, turn the machine on and off, and use the tamper to push ingredients down into the blades.
Using a Vitamix is also exciting because they can see foods transform before their eyes. Adding spinach to this muffin batter turns it green, and my kids think that is amazing. Just be sure to position the blender in a place where everyone can get a good view!
Even our best-laid plans don’t always turn out. You could end up with burnt pancakes, cardboard cookies or a dinner that is totally inedible. Explain that flops happen and it’s ok! Talk about how you all can learn from the mistakes and make a plan to do things differently next time. Turn a flop into a fun memory that you all will recall for years to come.
I hope these tips help you create beautiful and delicious memories with your kids!
Laura is the founder of joyfoodsunshine.com, a blog focused on (mostly) healthy recipes that are fast, easy & family friendly. She’s a wife and mom of five kids, ages eight and under, and is passionate about teaching others that living a healthy lifestyle while raising a family is both attainable and fun.