A Guide to Cooking with Kids

A Guide to Cooking with Kids

Are you looking for ways to teach your kids essential life skills and spend quality time with them? Well, you’re in luck, cooking with your kids does just that!

While it may take a little extra time and effort, cooking with your kids gives them numerous benefits. They are able to grow, learn, and develop all while having fun and making delicious dishes!

Giving your kids opportunities to participate in the kitchen encourages their creativity and facilitates an important conversation about health.

Benefits of Cooking for Kids

1. Arithmetic

Bringing your kids into the kitchen enables you to help them learn a variety of arithmetic skills. The experience and act of doing solidifies their understanding of these skills.

The simple act of pouring 2 cups of sugar into a mixing bowl requires them to count. By helping measure out ½ cup of brown sugar, they learn about fractions and whole numbers. They also learn more about accurate measurement when ensuring that the milk is properly lined up with the “1 cup” line.

2. Vocabulary

When reading through recipes, kids encounter a variety of new words. Being able to hear a definition of the word and act it out ensures they better comprehend the word and remember it easier.

They will most likely encounter the following words when helping you in the kitchen: “beat, whip, whisk, cream, and sift.” When your kids run into these words, you can help explain and demonstrate. They will also have the opportunity to distinguish between differing tastes and textures, such as sweet and sour; salty and spicy; and crunchy and tender.

3. Reading

Recipes are procedural. Reading each recipe helps kids learn how to carefully read and follow directions. It introduces them to or enhances their understanding of sequences and order.

4. Life Skills

Cooking and baking gives kids the ability to create something of their own. It gives them the skills necessary to be independent, which increases their self-esteem.

With these skills, they will be able to cook for themselves and others. They won’t need to rely on others to cook for them or constantly go out to eat.

Being able to cook for themselves also enables them to eat healthier.

An added benefit is that cooking allows kids to show their gratefulness and be friendly by baking and cooking for others.

My grandma was always known for this last one. Whenever she had an appointment at the doctor or dentist, she brought them special treats. She also made sure to give treats to her mailman, hair stylist, and many friends.

She believed these baked goods were a small way of showing her appreciation and gratitude for all these people did for her.

5. Fine Motor Skills

A fine motor skill, also called dexterity, is the coordination of small movements, typically involving hands and fingers.

Fine motor skills are crucial to a child’s development. They enable them to keep up with their peers, participate in self-care activities, and increase self-esteem and confidence.

Cooking is a great way to help your child with their fine motor development. A couple of ways cooking gives kids the opportunity to advance their fine motor skills are holding a spoon and stirring. These activities help them work on their pincer grasp and develop hand-eye coordination.

6. Social Skills

When cooking with more than one child, social negotiation and collaboration come into play. The kids have to work together and determine who is going to do what and whose turn it is. In doing so, they practice taking turns and being patient.  

7. Quality Bonding Time

While cooking has all of the great aforementioned benefits, one of the greatest benefits is being able to spend quality time with your children or loved ones and connect on a deeper level.

Cooking can become a special thing you and your child share together. You can share special family recipes and secret ingredients.

The memories you make together in the kitchen will never be forgotten.

Tasks for every age

So, now you want to teach your kids how to cook, but how do you include them and what is appropriate for each age group?

It is important to note the tasks listed below in each age group may not be appropriate for every kid in that age grouping. Some kids will be more advance and others may be behind. This list is just a starting point to help you tailor the tasks specifically to your child’s needs and abilities.

Preschoolers (2 – 5 year olds):

At this age, kids are beyond excited to help in the kitchen. While they typically can complete the tasks listed below, be sure to supervise them closely. Also remember the attention spans of kids this age are generally short. With that said, it is best to give them small tasks that do not require much preparation.

  • Squeeze lemons and limes
  • Sprinkle seasonings
  • Mix & stir
  • Use a salad spinner
  • Tear lettuce and herbs
  • Brush or “paint” oil
  • Roll dough
  • Break eggs
  • Grate cheese
  • Rinsing produce
  • Use cookie cutters

Young Cooks (6 – 8 year olds):

At this age, kids are able to start handling more complex tasks since their fine motor skills are further developed. They are also learning to read. Reading cookbooks and recipes gives them even more practice!

  • Scoop avocado
  • Measure
  • Peel potatoes
  • Form meatballs or patties
  • Greasing the pan
  • Garnishing and decorating

Preteens (9 – 12 year olds):

Skills at this age vary greatly. Most will be able to read labels, follow the recipes, and prepare parts of dishes, maybe even an entire meal. It is important to tailor the tasks to their individual skill level and ability. Giving them more responsibilities in the kitchen helps them feel more independent.

  • Open cans
  • Cut pizza
  • Make kabobs
  • Boil pasta
  • Simmer on stovetop
  • Slice and chop vegetables
  • Bake and microwave foods

Teenagers (13 – 16 year olds):

By this age, they should not need much supervision, if any. They have more freedom to choose what they want to cook and can even prepare family meals.

  • Use all kitchen appliances
  • Develop knife skills
  • Marinate foods
  • Grilling
  • Bake more complicated doughs and pastries
  • Use mandolines and slicers

Tips and Tricks

Now that you know why you should cook with your kids and how to involve them, we have a couple of tips to guarantee a fun, educational experience.

1. Don’t worry about the mess

As I’m sure many of you have experienced, cooking can get quite messy, especially if you bring your kids in to help!

When you kids are cooking, they are focusing on what they are doing; they are putting their all into it; and they are excited.

They are most likely not worried about the mess they may or may not be making. It is not a priority for them and shouldn’t be for you either! Your focus on the mess distracts them from their assigned tasks and albeit makes the experience less fun.

2. Don’t rush them

If you are bringing your kids into the kitchen, make sure you allow plenty of time. It takes a lot of time to make something, especially when trying to help your kids get the most out of the experience. You want to have time to explain what all the ingredients are, teach them how to measure, whisk, sift and taste test!

3. Don’t take over

One of the most exciting aspects of getting to help out in the kitchen as a kid is being able to contribute; to do something by themselves; and to add something meaningful to the dish.

4. Let them pick the recipe

Every now and then let them choose the recipe. They will be even more excited about making something they chose. If you are up for it and have time, you can even work with your child to make your own special recipe.

5. Let them be the official taste tester

Being a taste tester is hands down one of the most important parts of cooking! Without taste testing, you wouldn’t know if your seasoning was right, or if it turned out how you wanted it to.

Added benefit: the kids love it! They especially appreciate you asking them for their opinions. It makes them feel more important and significant. And, they love getting to try everything after putting in the time and effort to make it.

6. Discuss roles and tasks beforehand

By having a conversation before starting to cook about roles and responsibilities, the kids will better understand what they are responsible for and the process will go a lot smoother.

7. Start simple

It is best when bringing kids into the kitchen for the first time to start with a simple recipe.

Once you have mastered some of the more simpler recipes, you can slowly advance to more complex recipes. This process makes things easier for the kids to understand and follow as well as easier for you to explain and teach.

Kitchen Rules and Safety

Another important aspect of cooking is safety. Thoroughly teaching your kids how to be safe in the kitchen is essential to their progress and success. It may not be the first thing your kids want to hear when starting out, but it is a crucial part of their experience.

Here are some rules to ensure safety in the kitchen.

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food
  • Keep food preparation surfaces clean
  • Tie back long hair
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water before use
  • Don’t leave the kitchen when something is cooking on the stove
  • Turn handles of saucepans away from the front of the stove when cooking
  • Use oven mitts when taking hot dishes from the oven or microwave
  • Wash kitchen and eating utensils after use
  • Keep raw meat away from cooked meat at the bottom of the fridge
  • When using a knife, always cut away from your body
  • Unplug electronic appliances before touching sharp edges
  • Use a cutting board when chopping ingredients
  • Do not put metal in the microwave
  • Wash your hands and utensils after working with raw meat
  • Beware of hot steam

One of Our Favorite Recipes

You are now all set to start cooking with your kids. If you are looking for a delicious and fun recipe to start with, here is a favorite from the blog, Kevin and Amanda! Their post on this amazing recipe can be found here.

Crunchy Taco Cups                                                                                                                                           taco recipe

Ingredients 

1 lb. lean ground beef, browned and drained

1 envelope (3 tablespoons) of taco seasoning

1 10-oz can of tomatoes

1 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, shredded

24 wonton wrappers

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Coat a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray
  3. Combine cooked beef, taco seasoning and tomatoes in a bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Line each cup of the muffin tin with a wonton wrapper.
  5. Add 1.5 tablespoons of the prepared taco mix.
  6. Top with 1 tablespoon of cheese.
  7. Press down and add another layer of wonton wrapper, taco mix and cheese.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 11 – 13 minutes, until cups are heated through and edges golden.

Feel free to add add black olives, onions, or peppers to the taco mix! You can also top the cups with sour cream and/or guacamole. We love how easy it is for us to tailor these delicious cups to our liking by adding a few ingredients of our choosing!

Enjoy!

Special Recipe Book

Looking to add a special touch and memory to your kids’ experience in the kitchen? Help them make their very own recipe book.

You can work together to create some of your own recipes, include family recipes, or look online for new recipes to add. Creating a recipe book can be as simple and easy as you want it to be. You will only need a few supplies and a little bit of time.

The great thing with creating a recipe book is you don’t have to finish it right away. You can come back and add recipes periodically as you find them. It also gives the kids a way to pick what they want to make and really feel like they play an important role!

MarbleSpark has a couple of Pinterest Boards titled “Kid Friendly Recipes” and “Baking with Kids” that you can refer to for tips and recipes!

Supplies Needed:

  1. 3 ring binder
  2. Hole punch
  3. Paper, card stock
  4. Recipes

Recommendations and Helpful Links

Included below are some helpful sheets to help your kids learn about all of the tools used in a kitchen as well as all of the measurements. There is also an amazing chef certificate link below that you can print off and fill out for your child.

*This post was written by Caitlin, a member of the MarbleSpark team.*

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