Here are some of my tips and ideas on how to get your kids to help out in the kitchen. These are solely based on my experience and opinions, and obviously each parent and child is different. Regardless, I hope this helps you and your kids!
Number one for me because it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for your family, and it educates them about how things grow, and it can be done together. Kids love watching things grow, and then being able to pick and eat your own food right outside your door is also exciting for them! If you are not able to have a garden where you live, consider getting a small herb plant and put it in the window of your kitchen, and have the kids water it. (see my pathetic but yet growing basil plant? Still fun to pick off the leaves.) While cooking, you can task the kids to pick a few of the leaves off. Its inexpensive, adds freshness and flavor to your food, and the kids are still getting their very own task to do, that they helped grow and cultivate, and that is exciting!
2. Go shopping
Grocery shop with your kids. Don’t leave them in the car every time! Just kidding…have them pick one new vegetable per week. We do this and it’s very exciting for everyone because each person gets a turn at picking out a new veggie on a different week. My kids love it and it really gets them excited to try something new, and also figure out how to cook it! It’s like a cooking version of “pick your own adventure” except we eat the adventure.
3. Be okay with a messy kitchen… and be patient. (Deep breaths)
For the youngsters, have them stir things together, cut things with kid friendly knifes, curious chef.com has some friendly kid cooking items, like nylon knifes, or just sit them on the counter and watch. Give them an apron and a colorful set of measuring spoons and they will feel like a professional chef that is there to help! Colorful utensils are popular right now so if you need new tongs go ahead and get bright blue ones, the kids will love them. But, don’t feel inclined to spend a small fortune on kitchen gadgets for your kids, I mean seriously, look at the ones you have for yourself? Do you even use half of them? I know I don’t. Even if it’s just the kids task to wash the dishes, or set the table, they are involved in the kitchen with you, and that can’t be a bad thing. And obviously, be prepared for messes, spills, and accidents with your little ones. For some people this causes severe anxiety, but there are worse things in life than spilled milk. Like your kid not knowing how to make scrambled eggs at the age of twenty. Last but not least, be patient. Little ones take a lot longer to do simple tasks, allow extra time for them to follow through with their tasks, and to tackle any messes.
4. Watch TV & play games together
Chopped is a great show! It’s not often that I encourage TV watching, but, if you don’t know what it is I encourage you and your kids to check it out. They have a kid version, and kids baking championships, all on the food network. It’s fun to watch, encourages healthy competition, and the kids get to see their peers do stuff in the kitchen that is inspiring! The kids also have to confront accidents and mistakes, and learn how to forge ahead, a great lesson that not only my kids could benefit from, but myself as well! From there you could even choose an ingredient that was on the show, shop for it, and then prepare it. My girls love to play chopped with playdough. It gets them thinking about ingredients because they have to tell me, “the judge”, how they prepared it and what’s in it- they really get excited about cooking when we can relate it to a game of chopped!
5. Use those tablets and smart phones
For recipes that is. For the older kids, bring your recipe(s) on your tablets/smartphones to the store and have them read recipes and search for the ingredients at the grocery store. Start with simple recipes and then get more advanced. They will learn how to navigate a grocery store, and probably learn new ingredients. They will be a part of the cooking from the very beginning and probably know a few things by heart by the time you kick them out of the house. A few people have mentioned blue apron recipes- they are simple, come with the recipe card so you can repeat it, and the ingredients are shipped to your house, who wouldn’t want to get food in the mail? I have yet to try this out but, it sounds like a great idea for older kids. I’d even have them pick out the recipe they want to make, and have it addressed to them, because receiving packages in the mail is super exciting!
6. Have people over for dinner
Now, I’m not saying your house has to be grand central station but, having a friend over for dinner once a month is fun for us. We get to see our friend(s), eat a meal together, and also teach a bit of hospitality to our kids. Once the kids know someone is coming for dinner, they are excited and willing to help. We talk about what to make for our dinner guest, what things they think the guest will like, or what they don’t like, it gets them thinking about how we can make our guest feel the most welcome, and satisfy their taste buds at the same time.
7. Say thank you!
I always have to remind myself that my kids will pick up on every little thing I do and say, and when they help I always try to say thank you. Thank you for cutting, thank you for picking up the dishes, thank you for stirring. I like to be a specific thanker too. Instead of just a general thank you, let them know what it is that helped you out, and maybe they’ll be more inclined to do the same task the next time. Any little words of gratitude you express to them will make them feel like they were helpful and come back to help time after time.
Chelsey is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!