Teaching your kids to cook is a great goal, but actually getting your kids in the kitchen can be overwhelming and you wonder where to even start! Here are five practical ways to get your kids involved (and learning) in making meals in your home.
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I am so excited to talk about one of my favorite topics today! Getting your kids in the kitchen!
Cooking with my kids is one of my favorite things to do. (Truthfully, it can also be one of the most draining things I do too. But some hard things are still worth it).
Now that I have five kids, I do not cook with my kids as often as I used to. They are off busy playing and I’m busy trying to get food on the table. I don’t mind a little more alone time in the kitchen, but that just means I need to be a little more intentional and inviting to my kids about cooking together.
All of our children have started helping to cook and bake since they were able to stand or sit on a stool. Measuring, stirring, kneading dough, turning the handle on the pasta maker, pressing the start button on the food processor, and even learning to chop fruits and veggies– kids relish being able to do meaningful tasks and learning to do them well.
Which is why I am so excited about the new cookbook I received in the mail this week!
Tiffany Dahle from Peanut Blossom has written a fabulous cookbook for kids: The Ultimate Kids’ Cookbook. It’s colorful and full of healthy, kid-friendly recipes. I love the layout of the recipes through the book– the pattern is the same for each recipe: “Kids, please get us started”, “Parents, it’s your turn”, and “Teamwork gets it done” .
Tiffany’s goal in her beautiful cookbook is to give kids the confidence and skills to prepare meals for themselves and their families.
You can get a peek inside the cookbook in this live video I did on Facebook this week. My kids and I made crustless chicken pot pie from The Ultimate Kids’ Cookbook. Before you go check out the video, keep reading for some of my best tips for cooking with your kids, and then print out a copy of the chicken pot pie to try with your kids!
5 Ways to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen (and NOT Lose Your Mind!)
1. Make it a habit (aka, don’t give up).
Anything you do is more difficult the first or second time you do it, especially if it involves children. I KNOW it isn’t always (usually? ever?) easy to cook with your kids. I know from personal experience, and because you tell me… often.
But if your kids are interested in learning to cook, and you are interested in teaching them to cook, then decide to start and then decide to keep going even after the chicken is too salty or an egg ends up on the floor.
The more you train your children in the kitchen, the easier it will become. And then one day, before you know, you will give them a job to do and they will do it with ease. Better yet, before you know it they will be making you dinner!
2. Work with them one at a time.
If you have a passel of children like I do, it is often easier to work with them one at a time rather than all at once. Not only are you more likely to stay sane, but they are also more likely to actually learn something.
You can manage this a number of ways. You can simply naturally let your children take turns helping at meal times. Or, if you have a specific meal you want help with, just let them help in shifts. This has been helpful with my kids if I let one help me while I chop vegetables, then send him off to play while I make biscuits with another.
3. Assign one day of the week to be Kids’ Cook night.
Pick one day of the week to be the night your kids’ cooking night. Look at your family’s schedule and select a night when you can take your time and enjoy working together.
The predictability can keep you accountable for maintaining the habit, as well give you the opportunity to prepare yourself and your kitchen to be welcoming to your little helpers.
We are going to start doing this in our home soon. I am super excited about handing over The Ultimate Kids’ Cookbook to my oldest sons and letting them plan and prepare a meal of their choice. It’s going to help give them more confidence and excitement about cooking (even with me supervising for a while yet).
4. Practice when you have an extra hand.
If you feel like it’s just too much to try to manage little kids and invite your kids into the kitchen, then plan for intentional time when you have an extra hand at home. Maybe Saturday mornings could be a time you cook together, or perhaps Sunday afternoons could be a chance to make lunch with your kids.
Sometimes a little out-of-the-box thinking is all it takes!
5. Be flexible and keep things simple!
I’m squeezing two tips into this last one. You can consider it a bonus.
Being flexible is a MUST. Kids are so incredibly unpredictable– except in their consistency for keeping you on your toes. We as parents can envision things going a certain way, but then our kids come and completely shake things up. Anytime you plan to cook with your kids, plan to keep your plans loose. (That’s a lot of plans).
Let me give you an example. I start making dinner. My toddler inevitably wants to join me. I give him a task of shredding cheese, but instead he INSISTS on chopping carrots. Trust me when I say, avoid the power struggles and stay flexible.
Your bonus tip– keep things simple. One of the things I LOVE about Tiffany’s new cookbook is that all the meals are written to be one-pot dishes. The recipes are simple and written so that children can prepare them with minimal assistance. Each dish is either a sheetpan, crockpot, or skillet meal.
Avoid complicated dishes or new techniques when you are cooking with your kids. I speak from experience when I say that there’s only so much mental energy to go around, and usually the majority is spent on watching little hands and keeping up your end of the conversation.
Sometimes when we don’t like a food, it’s just one part of the food that is the problem. It turns out my kids love chicken pot pie filling but they don’t like the pie itself! That’s an easy enough problem to fix, we just serve up the creamy chicken and veggies alongside our favorite biscuits instead. Can you think of a food you would like to break apart and “fix” ? Now that you’re an expert on sautéing veggies, we hope you’ll enjoy testing out your new skill here.
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cups (473 ml) milk
- 1 rotisserie chicken
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
- 1 tsp jarred minced garlic
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 cup (25g) all-purpose flour
- 1 (10-oz [284-g]) bag frozen mixed vegetables or mix 2 cups (459 g) of your own veggie variety including carrots, peas, green beans and corn
- biscuits or crackers, for serving (optional)
1. Hey kids, please get us started!
Have your helper cut the onion into 4 large chunks so you can chop it into small-size pieces in a manual food processor.
Measure out the milk into a measuring cup, and set it aside.
Peel the skin off of the rotisserie chicken and throw it away. Using your fingers or a fork, shred the rotisserie chicken meat (both white breast meat and dark thigh meat) into small bite-size pieces.
2. Parents, it’s your turn!
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
3. Teamwork gets it done!
Add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme to the pan, and stir to combine with a long-handled spoon. Heat until the onions are softened and translucent (clear), about 3 to 5 minutes.
With a whisk ready in the adult helper’s hand, add the flour to the pan while the adult helper quickly stirs to combine with the onion mixture. Whisk continuously for 1 minute to toast the flour. The combination will quickly become dry and crumbly, but keep whisking to cook the flour through.
While the adult helper continues to whisk, gently pour the milk into the pot. Use the whisk to scrape up any dried bits of flour that may be clinging to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and continue to whisk the milk until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat to low. Add the shredded chicken meat to the pot and stir to combine.
Add the bag of frozen vegetables to the pot. The heat from the sauce will finish thawing the veggies. Gently stir to combine and cover the pot with a lid. Periodically stir and heat until the veggies are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
Serve the chicken potpie mixture in large bowls with some fresh biscuits, bread or crackers on the side if you like.
PLAY WITH IT! Lots of different veggies taste great with chicken. You could add almost anything from the frozen section: broccoli, asparagus, peppers and different kinds of beans. How about small diced potatoes to make it more like a stew?
This recipe is originally published in The Ultimate Kids’ Cookbook.