We all know that our children need to learn basic skills, like how to cook.  It seems like we should have fun cooking with our kids, but when it comes to implementing this, many of us are lost on how to make it work in our real everyday lives.  

Cooking with kids can be fun, but it often turns to frustration, mess, and a much longer cooking time.  Most of us do not have a lot of extra time to spend on cooking.  And frazzled parents do not need more frazzling activity at the end of the day.

How can we actually have fun cooking with our kids and make it a positive experience for both parents and children?  

It really is possible with some simplifying, some clear expectations, and a little bit of planning ahead.

Simplifying

If you have more than one child, you may have tried letting everyone bake or cook with you.  Those of us who have tried letting several children “help” us are all maniacally laughing right now.  It’s not fun or easy for the adult in charge, although your kids loved it, right?

To remedy my frustration, I tried assigning one child to each night of the week, so that only one kid is helping me at dinner time.  What a difference!  The other children know that it’s not their turn, and the one child is happy to be the only one.  Even my more reluctant older children end up enjoying the one-on-one time and learning to cook something themselves.  The entire process is so much simpler!

Setting Clear Expectations

A good helper is a good listener.  This is a well-known saying in my home.  Kids need to know to wait for instructions instead of barraging you with questions about what they can pour, what they can stir, what they can eat.  Help them to remember that they will get to pour, stir, and taste at the right times if they will listen for the next step instead of begging for that next step.  

Father and young son cookingAnother way to set clear expectations is to let your child know what they will mainly be doing in that cooking session.  Sometimes, he will be peeling vegetables most of the time.  Another time, he may be stirring the food on the stove while you prep the other ingredients.  If you really want her to work on their knife skills that time, make a big deal of that. Let your kids know what they will be doing so that you both have clear expectations.

Planning ahead

Planning for your cooking time can be as intensive as you want it to be.  You will at least need to think of what your child could do.  If you both approach the counter at meal prep time without your knowing where they could help, you will both reach frustration quickly.  Think through what that child could peel or stir or measure.  What could she get out of the refrigerator or pantry?  These are some simple ways to have a very basic game plan in your mind as you begin.  Of course, you could lay out a much more specific plan if that fits your style and you have time to do so.  

As you cook together more frequently, your mind will adopt this way of thinking and it will not take as much planning.  You’ll automatically think about what ingredients they can take out, what they could peel or chop, and what they enjoy doing to help in the kitchen as well.

And naturally, working together in the kitchen is a great time to work on signing too!  You can use the sign for cook, you could ask them to clean up the counter, or you can send them to find an ingredient in the refrigerator.

You can find more signing help in our dictionary, and you can access all of our fun videos with a MySigningTime digital subscription. It comes with a 14-day free trial, and you can access it anywhere!

Let us know how you plan to get your kids into the kitchen!