Cooking with kids can be challenging, regardless of whether you’re trying to cook with kids underfoot or trying to teach them to cook. But either way, cooking still needs to be done and there are things you can do to make it easier.
Cooking with Kids Underfoot
Until the kids are old enough to help, these strategies might help de-stress the cooking process:
1. Do as much as possible as early as possible. When my kids were little, I quickly discovered that bad things happened about the time I went into the kitchen to start dinner. The “bad things” ranged from big messes that needed cleaned up to an emergency run to pick up the husband because his car wouldn’t start. I learned to do as much as possible as early as possible. One of my favorite strategies was using my crock pot. That way, when life fell apart right before dinner, we could at least eat whatever was in the crock pot.
Other do-ahead tasks include:
- Chopping vegetables
- Making casseroles (put in refrigerator until time to bake)
- Setting the table
- Cooking parts of the meal (browning ground beef, cooking & shredding chicken, etc.)
- Gathering ingredients & recipes
2. Have a special activity available for the kids to do while you’re cooking. For example, only allow them to watch their favorite tv show during dinner prep. Or pull out a coloring book and crayons or a special toy. They get to do their special activity while you make dinner.
3. Keep it simple. The days when my grandkids are over during dinner prep time, I try to keep it simple so I don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen.
4. If the kids are at that in between age where you can’t quite teach them to cook but they’re not babies, put them at the counter with you and give them food to play with. I do that with my granddaughter all the time. She loves “cooking” with grandma.
Teaching Kids to Cook
There’s no right or wrong way to teach kids to cook. How you do it will depend on you and your kids. But while you’re doing it, keep these things in mind.
1. Have extra ingredients on hand because kid cooks will eat some (or most) of the ingredients.
2. Expect it to take about 4 times as long as it should.
3. Plan on a bigger mess than normal.
4. Don’t try to teach kids to cook when you’re in a hurry.
5. Explain things thoroughly and don’t assume anything.
Do your kids cook with you? Do you cook with kids underfoot? What are your best tips for staying sane while cooking with kids?