Tips for Surviving Cooking with Your Kids
When my oldest was a baby, she cried. Not like the normal baby cry but like all day cry. The cry that makes you set them down for a few just so you can cry yourself behind a closed door. This is real people. I cried, she cried, we all cried (sadly not for ice cream. Though if it was handed out I wasn’t one to say no). No, she suffered from acid reflux, which is a killer on a new mom. Especially a new mom who still needed to get food on the table. So, I did what any crazy mom would do I set that car seat right up on the kitchen counter. I cooked, I made up silly songs about the recipes (mostly so I wouldn’t forget what I needed) and we danced. You want to know what happened? The crying stopped! I started cooking with my baby.
Now that same child cuts veggies, makes her own eggs, and has the recipe for chocolate chip cookies memorized. As you can imagine, we have baked and cooked for many moments together. It is now her favorite thing to do with me. My two-year-old sets up right next to her and they both cook and bake with mommy.
So how do I do this and not lose my mind? I mean I am not trying to calm a crying baby anymore. (Those of you who are, I am sorry. I pray for you mommies out there daily. It is hard!) Well, I have some simple practices for cooking that really help. And today I am going to share them with you.
1. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries is so important. This is about the safety of everything. Talking to children about the rules. Such as do not put your hand in the oven, it is hot. The proper way to hold scissors or a knife. Also, how to handle certain foods. (Like my kids always wash their hands after touching meat or eggs)
2. Define the Jobs
This goes with setting boundaries and is the one thing that has been a necessity for me in cooking with my girls is defining the jobs. We have Mommy Jobs, Melody Jobs (my 4-year-old), and Emory jobs (my 2-year-old). As the years have gone by, Melody has gotten more jobs, such as cracking eggs or pouring the milk into a measuring glass. Where as Emory is not at the job of pouring the already measured item into the bowl. Mommy jobs are those that either my girls will fight over OR things they just do not have the skills to complete yet. One job for me is putting the cookie batter on the pan. I like to make sure that all the cookies will be the same size at the end.
However, while it is important to make sure that your kids have age appropriate jobs, know your child too. Melody can cut with a knife. This is because I have walked through how to do it with her many times. Melody also puts together ingredients for recipes and I do not have to watch her carefully. There is a trust that I know she is going to do it correctly, because we have done it together and she is a good listener.
3. Have the Right tools
When I say tools, yes you need a measuring cup and whatever. But I am talking about the tools needed for when dealing with kids in the kitchen. This includes but is not limited to:
Wash Cloth (For their hands and faces)
Also, it is super important to have something sturdy and safe for them to stand on. My oldest uses a step stool. My youngest uses a chair that I push into the corner. This is just so important for them to be able to maneuver how they need to. Not to say that they do not sometimes block what I need. Try to make sure you have all your items in order before they step up to the counter.
4. Embrace the Mess
This is an attitude that you have. If you really want to cook with your kids know that there will be a mess. You can handle it two ways, ( yes I have displayed both).
The first is with an acknowledgement that it happened, that is was an accident, and be patient as you explain how to clean it. Help your CHILD clean the mess. Do NOT do it yourself. This teaches them so many things, but also helps prevent messes in the future.
The second response is to give up, tell your child to get down and that you will finish it yourself. Clean up the mess while mumbling under your breath, that you should have never trusted that crazy blogger who said it was a good idea. I remember a time when Melody was getting out flour with the measuring cup, I saw it in slow motion as the whole bag tipped over. I was so mad. It was not her fault, but it was a huge bag of flour that was now half empty. I was so frustrated I made her leave and we were all in bad moods for the rest of the night. The next day I apologized, and wouldn’t you know it? The flour bag fell over for me too! We all make messes. Its our job to watch how we handle them.
The first will build trust in your relationship and confidence in your child. Our job as parents is to grow our children so we can do less (because they are capable) and they will grow into independent adults. The second will put everyone in a bad mood and make that child second guess doing this again.
Embrace the mess. Know it will happen. Laugh it off. Take it as an opportunity to grow your child and grown with your child.
5. Don’t be afraid to Use the Proper Terms
When my girls go to get items, they call them ingredients. They know what the different measuring cup sizes are, and most of the correct terms for pans and pots. It is important to take the time to call things EXACTLY what they are. Do not just grab the ingredients and say, “hey I got the stuff. Let’s make dinner!” take the time to explain what you need. I often bring the girls into the pantry and name the items as I hand them off for them to carry.
Using the proper terms will help them discover what seasonings to use when making certain dishes. Will help them with fractions and will also help with their own cooking someday. Plus hearing a two-year-old say ingredients is super stinking cute!
So where to start? There are a few excuses people give for not cooking or baking with their kids.
1. My kids are already too old.
No child is too old. When I was a teenager my mom MADE me help with cooking or do some of the cooking. It was a blessing and I loved doing it. I learned some good recipes and some neat tricks.
2. My child won’t sit still long enough.
You know you child. However, cooking is active. There is not much of sitting around and waiting time. Set the boundaries and jobs and you will be successful.
3. My child isn’t interested.
Any child is interested in their parent spending time with them. Even moody teens who are crazy and just want to be with friends. Have them invite some buddies over for a cooking lesson! It can be fun, and they will be thrilled (on the inside) that you wanted to spend that time with them.
4. I just do not like to deal with mess
Hey I get it. I hate mess. Which is why when my kiddos make one they have to help clean up, right away. I do not leave things out and I clean as I work. My girls as a result do the same.
5. What is the benefit?
There are a few. The first is spending time with your child and developing a relationship with them. The second is that they learn to cook. The third, well my girls have tried lots of different food because while they won’t eat it during a meal, they will try it while it is by itself. Such as sweet peppers.
6. What do you cook?
In an answer, anything they say, “Can I help?” to. BUT, there are some kid favorites that I love and have taught the fundamentals to my girls. If you are interested in this feel free to sign up below for the list to be sent right to your inbox!
The free printable includes 10 of our favorite kid-friendly recipes that we create in our home!
Enjoy your kitchen adventures! Please share how it went below or on Instagram at #kitchenadventures and #todayslittlemoments! Be sure to tag me too so that I can see all the fun!