It's no secret that I love to cook with my kids. You can read about it all through the blog. But, it can be stressful. I guess that's why people don't do it all the time. My kids are 2 and 4. If I can do this, you can too. Here are my steps to success for cooking with kids and staying sane.
1. Perfectionism must be left behind.
Sure, everyone loves perfectly aligned strawberries on a pavlova. They look lovely but in all truth your kids don't care. In most cases their key goal in being involved in cooking is to eat the end product or at least steal bits along the way, so the perfect alignment of strawberries is going to prolong the arrival at the goal for them and result in frustration. If you're making a cake because the Queen is popping around for afternoon tea do it without the kids. This is a hard point to adhere to if you're like me. But it ensures that everyone is calmer. My daughter and I make bliss balls regularly. They are all different sizes. They all have different amounts of coconut covering them, but she made them. And she's proud of them.
2. Hygiene is essential.
Ok. So the golden rule no 1? It needs to be broken. Nobody will love Little Johnnie's cupcakes if they are served with a side serving of food poisoning from little Johnnie's unwashed toilet hands. Everyone needs to start with clean hands and wash them after any pausing and any breaks. Likewise, surfaces should be clean.
3. There will be mess.
Embrace said mess. Most of it will be edible, or sweepable, or moppable. Make sure that there are helpers left at the end to help clean up. Leave the vacuuming until the cooking is done. Wear aprons and tie back hair. Seriously who knew a child could get a cacao coated scalp?
4. Choose a realistic recipe.
No croquembouche. Kids lose interest. They need stimulation. Make something either: fun, quick or edible during making. Limit the time spent on each recipe so they don't get bored. Make something sciencey- like ricotta that changes and turns into something with a quick transformation.
5. Brush up on food safety.
Basically: read this because it gives an awesome summary. You need to also remember things this: it's not ideal to eat raw cookie dough. The eggs could contain salmonella. It isn't worth the risk to the kiddies.
6. Think about the tools you are using.
It should be obvious, but a grater can seriously hurt you. I grated the knuckles off my right hand and it hurt, the sweet potatoes got blood on them and it was kind of a massacre. Be safe! A peeler can cut through skin and knives? well, they can sever limbs. So stick to either kid safe tools such as these or do the tricky stuff yourself.
7. Have something ready to do for any waiting period.
If something has to bake, then there is a waiting period. If something has to rise...well there's that pesky waiting period again. Waiting periods and kids don't mix. You don't want them too distracted (i.e. engrossed in a film) but likewise you don't want them sitting in front of the oven and trying desperately to lick the cake that is cooking through the door. You need something to do. You can either get them sweeping up the mess they've made (see point 3) or looking at recipe books or if you are like me, drawing a picture of everything they did (that's the teacher in me) or putting the steps in order.
8. Use it as a learning opportunity.
Remember why they are cooking with you. It is to peak their interest in food and get them actively involved. Remember to talk about the ingredients, where they come from, how they are made, what they do in the recipe. You want your kids to learn skills such as cutting, grating, peeling, measuring and weighing. Do ½ cups rather than full cups so they get to measure more. Make them count, make them watch the numbers on the scales.
9. Be prepared if it doesn't work out.
So, despite all your preparation and cooking it doesn't quite work out? That doesn't matter! Back to point 1. Perfectionism is not happening today. It is still a learning experience. And an even more valuable one. Because together you can decide what to change for next time.
10. Talk it up.
You want your kids to try what they have cooked! My best line " These are the best _____ I've ever tasted!". If your kids try one new fruit or veg or one new food because they cooked it themselves then your work here is done!
Have a great time cooking with your kids and creating memories! If you need kidfriendly recipes...here a few to get you started:
Set the kids to work!
As always, come visit us on facebook and show us your cooking!