Cooking with kids – so much fun! But also, so much work. Does having your kids in the kitchen inspire you or fill you with dread?
Cooking with children has always been normal for me. My mum is a great cook and often welcomed us into the kitchen as children. While I was studying my Bachelor of Education I worked as a nanny and would regularly cook with the children that I looked after. Cooking together was fun, yummy and a great learning opportunity. When I started teaching I was excited to cook with my class but found it much harder than I had expected! Keeping an eye on a large group of children, making sure no one is licking their fingers or waving a knife in their friends face is tricky! I quickly learned what simple recipes work when cooking with a group and I still enjoy taking the time to cook with one or two children in my own kitchen.
At the age of one, my daughter isn’t quite up to cooking in the kitchen yet, however, she loves hanging out with me, getting into the cupboards and unpacking the pantry or Tupperware. I have a whisk and spatula that she plays with while I’m cooking dinner and she has started ‘helping’ me unpack the dishwasher. Once she can safely sit or stand at the bench I will get her to help by fetching ingredients, stirring the bowl or opening packets.
Learning in the kitchen is everywhere! Cooking is one of the best activities for children to practise their early academic skills.
- Relationships – cooking together is a great way to strengthen relationships and build a deep connection. Food is a wonderful memory maker. I have many special memories of cooking with my mum and barbecuing with my dad.
- Early reading – ‘reading’ recipes allows children to practise their literacy skills. Even for children who can’t read yet looking at the pictures and numbers is great exposure. Watching you follow a recipe allows them to see the benefits of reading.
- Early maths skills – there are so many numbers in recipes! You have to count the steps, measure the ingredients, set the correct temperature on the oven and use the timer. All of this is great practice and maths in action.
- Motor skills – cooking is physical work! Carrying a heavy bottle of milk or stirring the mixture develops gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are developed as children use measuring cups or spoons, open packets or place item on a tray.
- Following instructions – children will need to follow the directions in the recipe and follow your instructions for being in the kitchen! Following directions is a learned skill.
- Safety and Hygiene – washing hands, handling hot and sharp objects and being safe in the kitchen. It is important to give children opportunities to engage in risky behaviours, like cutting, within controlled environments.
- Healthy eating – letting your child choose and help you cook a healthy recipe will make it more likely that they will eat it! Spending time in the kitchen working together exposes children to different foods and helps to develop healthy eating.
Here are two of my favourite recipes. The first is easy when cooking with a group. The second is a special one from my childhood and something I enjoy making with one or two children.
When I need to cook with a big group I always turn to pizza!
Give every child a bowl and a pair of (thoroughly washed) scissors and then set them to work chopping the ingredients. You can use ham, salami, capsicum, mushrooms, spring onions, tinned pineapple, etc.
Use bought pizza bases, add pizza sauce, add all of the toppings and cover in cheese! Bake at 180°C until the cheese is melted.
Children always surprise me with what they will eat when it is put on a pizza base and topped with cheese.
Other great group cooking experiences are:
- Fairy Bread
- Choc balls/Apricot balls (anything made with a tin of sweetened condensed milk and crushed biscuits)
Mum’s Chocanana Muffins
I am looking forward to making these muffins with my daughter when she gets a bit older. There are lots of things that children can help with in this recipe, like mashing the banana and stirring the mixture.
- 1 overripe banana
- ½ cup raw sugar
- 1 cup wholemeal SR flour
- ½ cup white SR flour
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup milk
- ¼ cup oil
- ½ cup choc chips
Heat oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl mash banana.
Add sugar and sift in flour.
Lightly beat egg in a cup, add to bowl.
Add milk, oil and choc chips.
Mix until just combined.
Spoon into a muffin tray and bake for around 20 minutes.
I hope this inspires you to give cooking with your kids a try!