During these times of social distancing and shelter-in-place, parents are scrambling to do it all - work from home, parent from home, and cook from home! Adapting from packed lunches to cooking breakfast, lunch ,and dinner for the family. You're not alone, this is the perfect time to be cooking with your kids.
I'm Julian Frederick, 12-year-old CEO of the Step Stool Chef and youngest SideChef contributor here to talk you through my top 10 tips on cooking with kids. I believe that cooking is a great way for kids to build independence, make mistakes, and try new things.
We all hear that kids make great helpers when cooking. Next time try switching it around and give them tasks and recipes they can complete with little to no help. At the Step Stool Chef, we are building a community where kids are the chefs and parents are the assistants. Kids need opportunities to lead and a safe space to take risks. This helps build independence skills we will need later. Ask our opinions and let us make decisions where possible.
Repeat after me: “It will get messy… and that’s ok”. Kids are going to make a mess and that’s just a fact. It’s part of our nature and you'll have to accept that. If you try to take control because you think it will be easier and cleaner, then you will take away part of the learning experience (and let's face it - part of the fun!).
As many parents find themselves homeschooling for the first time, know that cooking is a great activity to add to your curriculum! Cooking is a fun and interactive way to integrate math, science, and reading. There are some great online programs that make adding cooking to your homeschool plan a breeze.
Look for high prep/low heat recipes with simple ingredients. High preparation allows your kids to practice cooking skills like cutting, mixing, seasoning, etc. Low heat means they will have minimum exposure to open flame/stove stops, such as foods you bake in the oven. My Step Stool Chef recipes on Side Chef are a great place to start!
It’s common for parents to want to jump in when you see their child doing something that isn’t right. Many adults want to stop kids from making mistakes because they want the child to be successful when trying something new. I know you mean well adults… but stop it! As long as they are not going to hurt themselves or anyone else, let them make the mistake. Cooking is a lot of trial and error and the biggest mistakes often lend to the biggest learning moments.
Set aside a specific day or time for your little one to get in the kitchen and be the chef. It could be a special day of the week or a specific meal of the day. This will give them something to look forward to and give time for parents to prepare.
The toddler years are a great time to start cooking with your kids. It is the age when they are eager to explore their newfound independence. Give them special “jobs” and age-appropriate tasks such as cleaning veggies, mixing ingredients, pushing buttons on appliances, etc.
If kids are involved in helping to establish kitchen rules, they are more likely to remember and comply with them. Keep your rules simple and fun.
As a kid chef, I have three easy rules I follow in the kitchen and they all begin with ABC:
1. Always Be Cleaning – Clean up as you go so you won’t end up with a big mess
2. Always Be Careful – Listen to adult and be careful around heat and sharp objects
3. Always Be Cooking – Stay focused on cooking and don’t get distracted.
Kids like using products that were made just for them. There are plenty of online products such as cooking tools, cooking kits, aprons and more. The smaller-sized tools fit better in their hands and make cooking easier for them. It's exciting when you pull out their special products because it's a signal that it’s time to get cooking.
Cooking with kids can be a great bonding experience. Remember to have fun and RELAX. Use the opportunity to talk about healthy eating choices, share your family values and traditions. Let your hair down and let your kids see your silly side. Take it from me, kids like spending time with their family and cooking makes for awesome family time!
To learn more about The Step Stool Chef, visit www.stepstoolchef.com follow them on all social media outlets at @steptoolchef.