Cooking with kids in the kitchen

Are your kids allowed in the kitchen? Mine are, and they enjoy it. Here are some ideas to help you get cook up some family fun in the kitchen with the kids.

Recipe for success. Start off with recipes you know your children love and enjoy. One of the favorite dinners in our household is spaghetti and meatballs. It's easy to involve the children in making this dish, especially since our spaghetti sauce is usually made in the slow cooker. The children can add ingredients, and then we walk away while it cooks. Graduate to new recipes that are unfamiliar and maybe even more complicated.

Don't mess with the mess. Yes, having children in the kitchen means that it may get a little or a lot messier than it does when you are cooking alone. But making a mess is half the fun and all part of the learning process. Include the children in clean-up duty, too, so that they understand exactly what is involved in creating, cooking, and serving the whole family a meal.

Don't get burned. Before you start any cooking with the kids, be sure to go over the safety rules. You may even want to post them in the kitchen so that everyone can remember them. After all, we want cooking to be safe and fun.

Relax. If you are worried about having children in the kitchen it won't be fun for anyone. As a parent it is hard to relax because you worry about safety and your sanity. But the ultimate goal is to teach our children valuable life skills and have some fun doing it.

Take turns. Baking, decorating and eating cookies for many kids is a great deal more fun than cooking dinner. If that's what they want to do and you have time to do it then why not? But make sure that it's not all fun and games. Dinner needs to be served.

It's tool time. This isn't just about measuring cups and spoons. In our house, the step stool creates the perfect height for the girls to create a culinary masterpiece, even if it's just peanut butter and jelly, at the kitchen island. It's important to have cutting boards and plastic measuring items so your children can really get involved and not just watch you.

Clean up, clean up everybody, everywhere. Start with teaching and enforcing good hand washing skills and end the same way. There are many steps in cooking that require frequent hand washing as well as clean as you go. Make sure to disinfect and sanitize and wash hands again before serving. Remember those little hands were most probably playing in the dirt before they started playing in the bread dough.

There are many advantages to cooking with children, including teaching them important math skills and working together. Also, children are more likely to eat what they cook, or at least give it a try. Parents and children can find it an interesting way to spend time together. It can even be fun. Many years later I remember making pies and baking zucchini bread with my dad, as well as frying up fish straight from the lake. Having too many cooks in the kitchen provides the opportunity to create many lasting memories, long after the meal is served.

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