With half term coming up, what better way to spend a day than getting into the kitchen with your kids? Cooking can be fun, delicious, sociable and educational (we wrote a whole blog post about that here). But when you throw small children into the mix, expectation and reality can often be two very different things.
I spend a lot of my life cooking, develop recipes for a living and have had all three kids in the kitchen since day dot, but that doesn't mean I always find it 100% stress free. Over the years here are a few top tips I've learned for cooking with kids to help keep everyone sane and having fun.
"Let's make cookies!' Being spontaneous is great but when you're cooking with kids, it pays to plan ahead. Have a recipe you're going to follow, make sure you have the ingredients - or that shopping for them is part of the activity - and have a workspace laid out where your child can safely access a flat surface, running water etc.
Get your timing right
For your kids, and for you. Don't try to cook when your child is tired, grumpy or really hungry - for example, younger children may have more success with a morning baking session. Make sure you're in the zone too - you're calm, not rushing to send a quick work email whilst looking up a recipe on your phone or trying to keep the house clean for guests or an important occasion.
Accept the mess
Cooking with kids is messy. It's part of the fun. Even when they're trying to be neat and tidy kids can spill flour, drop eggs or get chocolate in their hair. And that's when they're trying which, let's face it, doesn't always happen :-) Dress your kids in appropriate clothing, decide in advance how messy you're happy for them to get and keep to the boundaries that suit you. Our cooking sessions almost always end with one or more of my children scraping out the bowl with their fingers . . .
Divide and conquer
Cooking with one child can be peaceful. Cooking with several can be chaos. If you can make it a special time for just one child at a time e.g. when a younger one is napping, great. If not, help prevent squabbles by dividing responsibilities e.g. one child can measure, another stir, or letting them both take part in a task e.g. crack one egg each. Recipes with individual portions e.g. mini pizzas or cupcakes can be great as each child can take responsibility for their own creation.
Keep it pressure free
You may have an image in your head of the perfect cooking session. Your child may have other ideas. Some kids love mess and using their hands, others don't. Some children may only want to eat all the ingredients as you cook (another tip, have extras to hand for snacking!), others may love the cooking process but not want to eat the end result. Getting kids in the kitchen is a brilliant first step towards helping with reluctant eating but it has to stay pressure free - let your child take the lead and don't put on pressure to taste the ingredients or final product if it's not what they want.
Every month our boxes are full of fun ideas and activities to get kids in the kitchen. Our June boxes are all about AUBERGINE and available to order until 15th June.