Meal time is family time.

So get everyone involved as often as possible from planning through clean up and make it fun!

You will be glad you did! -Kimberly

Cooking With Children

by Kathleen Thomas

 Cooking family meals remains a high-priority responsibility for which every family member can contribute.

Even small children partake in cooking and in tasting the rewards. Young children who feel included and wanted during meal preparation often continue assisting throughout their teen years and openly talk around the family  table. Establish open lines of communication with your children by cooking together.

For the duration of any kitchen activity, act as a role model for safety.

Supervise children at all times during cooking. Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling food. Turn all pot handles inward to prevent burns. Do not leave food cooking on the stove unattended, and turn off burners after cooking. Wipe spills off the floors immediately to prevent slips. Demonstrate safe meat thawing and handling techniques. Use different cutting boards for vegetables and meats. Wash all fruits and vegetables. Teach clean up and disinfecting procedures.

From infancy, involve your children in family meal preparation. Talk to them as you cook. Introduce them to cooking skills when they are old enough to participate safely. Provide wooden spoons and a pan to make music or measuring spoons and spatulas to pretend to help. Allow them to stand on a chair and watch you chop vegetables. Introduce them to a plastic knife when they are ready to practice cutting soft cheese. Give them the responsibilities of pouring water, mixing batter, and scooping flour. Additionally, pouring cereal, setting the table, unloading groceries from bags, and washing dishes remain cooking tasks in which young children safely assist.

As children grow older and more skilled, allow them to participate in more challenging tasks. They grate cheese, crack eggs, stir soup, and grill meat. With practice, their skills improve and they gain confidence in the kitchen.

Cooking also reinforces educational skills and will assist them when they get to preschool.

Children practice math by measuring ingredients, learn science by watching water boil, discover culture by combining spice varieties, and learn tradition by cooking family recipes.

Many parents avoid cooking with their children due to the length of time required. Your children will not perform tasks as quickly as you do because the tasks are new to them.

Offer frequent praise and encouragement. As they practice, their speed and technique will improve. Taking the time to teach your children to cook equips them for life on their own and gives all of you pleasant and perhaps amusing memories. 

Kitchen messes also frustrate many parents when cooking with children. Make clean up fun by singing, dancing, and talking.

Plan your next meal to cook together, discuss what your children do and do not like to eat and why, or talk about food nutritious and how our bodies use food. Show them how much you enjoy their company, and build relationships. 

As the center of most homes, the kitchen draws every hungry family member. From infant to adult, families congregate for nourishing food and lively conversation. Build relationships, teach kitchen safety and life skills, and cook your next meal together.

Kathleen is a Communications Coordinator for the Atlanta day care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of day care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.
Kathleen Thomas
Communications Coordinator