Cooking with young children seems a bit daunting at first.
I know what you’re thinking. There are a lot of potentially dangerous objects in the kitchen. It’s hard to do anything with kids “helping”. What are they even capable of doing at this age?
Actually, it’s not as bad as you might think! Kids learn surprisingly fast, and you will love watching how excited your child gets about helping you. The first piece of advice I have, as always, is to follow the child. Give your child tasks appropriate to their abilities, and don’t underestimate what they are capable of.
I like to start with letting the child pour ingredients that you have already measured into the big mixing bowl. Pouring is a skill that young children love to practice, and this is a great practical application. Another simple action they can start with is stirring all the ingredients together. You will likely have to check when they are done that everything is completely mixed, but let them have at it as long as they are interested. This is a good time for them to practice being careful, so that the ingredients stay in the bowl. My daughter especially loves stirring with our wooden spoons.
Once the child has good fine motor skills, you could start letting them scoop the ingredients on their own. You will have to hand them the correct measuring tool at first, which also gives you the opportunity to point out the numbers on the spoons and cups (even though they won’t memorize these facts just yet). Cracking eggs is also good fine motor practice. Instead of cracking the eggs directly into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients, give your kiddo a separate bowl they can crack the eggs into. This allows you to pick out any eggshell more easily, and then they can pour the egg into the mixing bowl. It will be messy at first, but be patient and let them help you clean up.
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When your child has mastered stirring, they might like to try stirring food that is cooking on the stove.
Always supervise children when they are using the stove.
Be sure they are standing on something sturdy, such as a chair or learning tower, and remind them to stand still and not to touch the stovetop or the pan. I try to put the pot or pan on a front burner so that the child does not have to lean across the stovetop.
You can introduce knife skills with plastic safety knives.
I have not personally tried this nylon knife set, but I see it recommended virtually every time someone mentions cooking with young children. I am definitely thinking about purchasing them in the future, but for now I have allowed my child to use a butter knife to cut soft foods like banana. She’s becoming very adept and careful and we will likely be moving onto other more difficult items soon.
Some recipes also include spreading or layering ingredients with your hands, such as pizza or lasagna. These are great recipes for kids because they can put the ingredients on however they see fit.
Continue to add on to what your child is learning as they master the skills they are practicing. Always be patient and encouraging when cooking with young children. Little fingers will want to feel and taste everything, which does get super frustrating. Remind your child that cooking means following directions carefully.
Related: What Homeschool Looks Like At 3
Some of my favorite things to cook with toddlers or preschoolers include spaghetti, cookies, scrambled eggs, pizza, lasagna, and tacos. I have been cooking more and more from scratch, and I really love this cookbook. I have an an older version but it is the only physical cookbook I use.
What are your favorite recipes to share with your children?