You’re a busy mom with a lot on your plate. Between your job and the demands of maintaining the household, do you find it a real challenge to find the time to connect with your kids? Instead of trying to squeeze in quality time between cleaning up and making dinner, why not make mealtime preparation a family activity that your kids can take part in? Yes, the rather mundane task of getting dinner on the table can be part of a magical bonding time with your beloved offspring.
Find the right recipe
Begin with something easy, because the easier the dishes are to prepare, the more likely your kids will want to try and make them again. Cookies, cupcakes and cake mixes are great for entry-level baking, while beginner cooks can help whip up easy pastas, smoothies and sandwiches. Avoid anything with five or more cooking steps. Read recipes in advance and screen out those with tricky steps such as working with caramel or whipping egg whites to a meringues You can also find specially-designed kid-friendly recipes.
Reading the recipe out loud with your child is a great way to begin discussing cooking terminologies like mix, slice, chop and whisk. While doing so, take the chance to talk about safety and to introduce hygiene, begin every cooking session by washing your hands and putting on an apron, while explaining why it’s so important to keep washing your hands, especially after handling different kinds of ingredients.
Yes, we know kids develop at their own pace, but there are some general rules for child safety in the kitchen. Generally, an adult should always be present to supervise the entire cooking or baking process, and be especially responsible for any process involving sharp edges (knives, peelers, mixes) and heat. So, as mom you get to do all the chopping, slicing and mixing, heating, boiling, melting.
If your child is seven years old, assign simple tasks like washing vegetables in a colander, measuring ingredients, sifting flour, scooping batter into cupcake molds. When your kids start asking questions—about the recipe, the ingredients, the techniques—take that as a good sign that he’s ready to explore new recipes and take on a little more responsibility. Your child can start baking at the age of 12. At this age, the child can fully understand cooking and baking concepts, including the effects of heat on food, and the motor skills are fully developed already. The most critical skills is how to use a knife.
Laugh at the mess
Cooking with your kids won’t always be easy. It can be messy and chaotic. You can expect a few minor cuts and burns. You’ll be spending twice or thrice the usual amount of time on a dish. Teach them to take it all in stride as part of the adventure of cooking—including the mess and the spills and the silly mistakes, like accidentally squishing eggs. Just laugh over it together and mop up the mess.
As you spend more time together in the kitchen, you’ll find that teaching your kids to prepare their own food is very self-rewarding. Watching them take pride in their what they’ve made, the sense of accomplishment, the fun of eating what they made and the joy of helping them figure out a technique, is extraordinarily satisfying. As is the feeling that they’re learning an important life skill.
Cooking and baking with kids is a conversation. You get to talk about ingredients, flavors, tastes. You can plan for future meals at home and in school. You can reminisce over old family recipes and the stories behind them. It’s a beautiful way of sharing magic moments with your child. And all it takes is a little flour and sugar, some extra time and a lot of patience.
Photo from energytimes.com