Where is one of the best places to practice skill building, leadership, and collaboration? The kitchen! Already filled with tools, the kitchen encourages creativity, math, science, and reading all at the same time.
My children became interested in the kitchen when they realized if they learned to bake, we’d have more sweets in the house. While I enjoy cooking, baking is not a favorite pastime of mine. However, our time in the kitchen became a weekly priority when the more I said yes to baking, the more I watched my children enjoy themselves and build confidence while they explored measurement, practiced sequencing, and learned important life skills. Baking together is now something we all look forward to and love.
Tried and true, here are some of my favorite tools to get kids cooking and learning in the kitchen.
1. Use Kid Friendly Cookbooks-
Look for cookbooks with foods kids enjoy eating and with recipes they can read and follow.
Some of the ones we love and use often include:
Note- the books linked in this post are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to click on or buy from them but your support helps this website grow. Thank you!
2. Use Real Cooking Tools-
Children need access to real cooking tools. It also helps if they know where to find them and put them away. Show kids how to use and care for each tool. Which spoons and spatulas do you use with your non-stick vs. cast iron pans, which knives work best for certain foods, and when do you use a blender vs. food processor.
3. Allow Plenty of Time to Practice-
Much like any skill, kids need to be in the kitchen often to build understanding and feel success. Invite them to cook dinner with you every Sunday, prepare their lunches, or let them plan and prepare a meal once a week.
4. Gather Patience-
Cooking with kids is often messy and takes extra time. Spills, burnt food, salt instead of sugar, it all happens, just like it does for all beginning cooks. Invite children to help regularly, but maybe not when you need to get dinner on the table quickly. For those times, if they want to help, instead of saying Later, ask them to gather ingredients, toss a salad, or set the table. There are many ways to help prepare a meal, and when encouraging learning the point is to set them up for success, not put them off or offer time with a rushed or overwhelmed sous-chef.
5. Find Trust & Offer Autonomy-
Let’s face it, no one really likes to be told what to do or how to do it. Kids often believe they already know how to do the thing they are learning and can be especially resistant to their parents trying to tell them exactly what to do. Power struggles make a fun activity no fun at all. We must find a balance. The best way to help kids feel success in the kitchen is to let them make choices and learn (safely of course) by trial and error.
The best way to help kids feel success in the kitchen is to let them make choices and learn (safely of course) by trial and error.
Let children flip through cookbooks and choose what they want to cook.
Take them grocery shopping or have them write down the ingredients they want and need.
Give choice- Do you want to make this or that, chop or stir, learn how to use the blender or help me measure?
Gently remind kids to read the recipe in order- “Hmm…it seems like that first step got missed. Maybe it’s important. Do you want to read it again?”
As long as they are safe, allow them to stir, flip, crack, and whip their way. (No matter how many times I model separating an egg in the shell, my son loves letting the whites run through his fingers. Each to their own.)
Be okay when mistakes happen- they are new to this and learning happens when we make mistakes.
6. Tell Stories & Have Fun-
tell your kids about the first time you cooked with your grandmother or how you once served their father raw chicken and crispy rice when you were learning how to cook (ahem…), dab their noses with whipped cream, turn on some music, lick beaters and spoons, add extra chocolate chips. The more we make cooking fun, the more our children will want to cook.
One of the best gifts we can offer our children is confidence in the kitchen. When they cook, they are asked to read, measure, and follow directions. They are invited to nourish themselves and offer nourishment to others. They become alchemists. Cooking taps into our senses, connections, and offers us countless ways to express ourselves. When we offer tools to get our kids cooking, we invite them into a world of endless opportunities to learn.