I have three boys (ages 2-7) that love to help me cook. My two oldest boys have been helping me out in the kitchen for the past five years, and we can frequently be found working side-by-side as we prepare dinner or dessert (their favorite!). Over the years I’ve picked up some tips and tricks for getting kids interested in and excited about cooking — I am happy to share my super-tips with you today.
Grow a Garden
It’s absolutely true that kids are far more likely to eat their veggies if they’re homegrown. My boys still aren’t huge fans of most green vegetables, but they are always willing to give it a try if it was grown in our garden. As I introduce new foods, I prepare them alongside old favorites to pique my children’s interest and make them more likely to give it a taste.
My boys may have confirmed that they don’t like broccoli, but they’ve also learned that they do like white and purple carrots, cucumbers and both red and green lettuces. Growing food with your own hands makes you feel much more connected with it…and there’s nothing more delicious than a juicy strawberry that’s freshly picked right out of the garden!
Use the Right Tools
There are tons of great kid-friendly kitchen tools available, and my favorites come from For Small Hands, a Montessori supply resource. Three excellent cutting tools designed for children are the Wavy Chopper, Slice & Spread Knife, and Cut ‘n’ Roll Slicer. All are specifically made for small hands, work well and dramatically minimize the chance of cuts or injury. The Learning Tower is a fantastic way to invite your child to help you at the kitchen counter without having to worry about them standing on a wobbly and unstable chair while they are working.
Let Them Do the Work
When I first started cooking with my kids, I used to do a lot of prep work. I would pre-measure all of the ingredients and crack the eggs into ramekins so that my boys could easily pour them into the mixing bowl. I quickly learned that while loads of preparation works wonderfully when you’re cooking with toddlers, it tends to take the fun out of cooking for older kids. By the time my boys were four-years-old they were eager to crack their own eggs and measure their own ingredients. Yes, it will take longer, and they will very likely make a big mess, but they will also be able to proudly proclaim that they did it all by themselves. It’s okay to take a deep breath, step back and watch as they grow into expert egg crackers.
Keep it Simple
I saved this tip for the end because I think it’s the most important one of all. Starting simple is the best way to keep a child focused and interested in the task at hand, and it allows lots of room for growth and learning in the future. I suggest starting with recipes that use just a few ingredients and have a short prep time. Choose foods that your children already enjoy eating, and teach them the steps required to put together their favorite meals. Before you know it you’ll have budding master chefs on your hands!