“Anyone Can Cook!” – Ratatouille
I love getting my kids involved in the kitchen! Don’t get me wrong, it can be extremely stressful, but the pride and joy that is shining from their face is worth every “sucked breath”! I’m amazed at how willing they are to help and how fast they learn!! Charlie Beth loves to add ingredients, take turns mixing batter, decorating, and especially tasting our creations! Even Gideon, while still in the playing stage, loves to climb up and participate.
I thought I would share what I’ve learned to make it a less stressful environment and enjoyable for everyone.
Be sure they are aware of their surrounding and know the rules of the kitchen. Here’s a few rules you can implement.
• Wash your hands.
This counts as play time for my youngest.
• Sharp knives are only for parent use.
I let my kids use the Gerber kid safe knives to spread or cut soft ingredients.
• Do not touch the stove top or any of the kitchen equipment unless you have parents permission.
I try to turn the pot handles in toward the back of the stove top to keep the temptation away too.
• Ask before you lick.
My kids are the best taste testers, so I usually have a few ingredients set aside for them to try. It keeps them away from the raw ingredients.
• Safe working station.
I’ve seen lots of kids sitting on the counter to help in the kitchen and as long as you don’t EVER leave your kids side, I’m sure that’s fine. My kids are too unpredictable and now that they out number me, that would NEVER work. My amazing dad built a “Tot-Tower” for Charlie Beth when she was 18 months old. BEST THING EVER! I can’t thank him enough! She is able to climb up and participate in whatever I’m doing. I’m not always able to give her something to help with, but she loves to play with her kitchen set or color at her station. My dad made a second one for Gideon and they are the best sous chefs a mom could ask for!
• And last but not least, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!
I’ve never seen someone peel hard boiled eggs as well as my daughter. It’s amazing! But now, every time she sees an egg she wants to crack it! Same goes for anything, as long as I’m including them, they’ll listen.
Benefits to having your kids help in the kitchen
• Motor Skills
Helping in the kitchen is a great way for kids to work on their motor skills! Washing hands, pouring liquids, cutting, whisking, etc…
I ask Charlie Beth (3 years old) to cut soft ingredients and use her ‘Odd Squad’ skills to count ingredients. Gideon is still young, but helps by putting away his clean dishes. He LOVES feeling the bags of powdered sugar, banging on the ingredient boxes, and tasting everything I leave unattended.
Your child could start on an easy rice sensory bin to help with their pouring skills or cutting playdough with a butter knife. Then work their way up to soft ingredients or let them unwrap chocolate kisses for delectable peanut butter cookies.
• Promotes Independence
Helping in the kitchen will give them a sense of self accomplishment and that they are capable of so many things. I have a cabinet set aside, just for them! Utensils, plates, cups, bibs, aprons, etc. They can set their place at the dinner table, get mom approved kitchen utensils to help with a recipe, and help put away clean dishes.
Charlie Beth can get water from the refrigerator, all by herself! I put a bright arrow sticker over the water button, so she knows which one to push and won’t end up being afraid because the ice button was left on. Giving praises for their accomplishments can really boost their egos too!
Kids in the kitchen may make you want to try new things. I love introducing my kids to different cuisines and encouraging them to reach out of their comfort zone. The recipe won’t always be a winner, but they are more adapt to trying something if they helped prepare it themselves.
•Natural introduction to Math
Measuring and cutting ingredients is a great hands-on way to introduce Math to kids! Addition, multiplication, fractions, etc… you could even add some geometry into the mix! Turn a round pizza into triangles! My daughter loves to help count ingredients and read the numbers on the recipes. I’m surprised how well she’s learning at such a young age.
And lastly, Hukana Matata!
Things will burn, ingredients will be forgotten, and batter will be spilled, but carry out is just a phone call away (even on Thanksgiving)!Turn on some catchy tunes and have a dance party while you wait! You’ll feel better and your kids will still have wonderful memories!
My favorite childhood memories were around the kitchen island, listening to stories and helping my mom. I hope my kids can look back and enjoy the times we laughed, cooked, and danced around the kitchen!