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Cooking with Kids

After reading Casey’s post about bonding with her kids in the kitchen, it got me thinking about the traditions we’re creating with our kids. One of my favorite things she says is, “They poured and mashed and talked along side me. We sat down as a family to eat and I couldn’t help but think about how we never would have done this just two years ago. And how just because that is the way it has been, doesn’t mean you can’t make a change.”

I LOVE that idea. Just because life has been one way…doesn’t mean it can’t be another. So if you’re not cooking or you’re not involving your kids – why not give it a try?

It’s been pretty natural for us to have the kiddos in the kitchen with us. When we first started dating, Donovan and I cooked together a lot. In fact he offered to cook me a meal for one of our first dates. At that time, I had NO kitchen stuff. I wasn’t a cooker and I had just moved to AZ and since I had only met Donovan twice before, I got a little weirded out by the idea of this guy coming to my apartment with pots and pans and knives. Ha. So I bought him wings at a local sports bar instead.

The girls spend time with us in the kitchen for a few reasons. The first is that we’re in the kitchen a lot. The second is that the girls LOVE being involved in the process. This is easier now that our girls are little older (3.5 and almost 2).

This is them stirring sliced sweet potatoes, red onions, olive oil and salt and pepper for a pizza we were making.

Some lessons I’ve learned:

  • Don’t worry about the mess. Yes, it’s going to be a mess and it’s really hard for me to let go and just let it be but it makes the process so much more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Give age appropriate tasks. For our girls, they love to stir, beat eggs, add salt and pepper, pour in pre-measured ingredients, eat scraps of whatever we’re making.
  • Understand that their efforts aren’t going to be perfect. No, after all that stirring (like four minutes worth) my sweet potatoes all covered in oil. But they had fun – and it took me like 15 seconds afterward to give it a quick stir on my own.
  • Stress kitchen safety. Our girls are typically sitting on the counter when we’re cooking (this is half of the draw, I swear) and so we are constantly stressing the importance of not touching knives, peelers, etc. We don’t leave a knife sitting on the counter but we are chopping with our girls right there. We want them to respect the tools and know the dangers. We also stress that while it’s okay to make a mess with lots of things for food safety reasons, we try not to make messes with raw eggs, etc.
  • Use bigger, deeper bowls than you might normally.
  • Let them play with the ingredients. One of the best side effects of this whole thing is that our girls love all sorts of food. They’re constantly trying things like fresh mint, green onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant while we’re prepping them. It makes them MUCH more likely to eat these things once we’re sitting at the table.

What are you favorite tips for cooking with your little ones?

Oh, and just in case you thought it was all rainbows and unicorns, here’s what happened when I told Neva it was time for Grace to stir.


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March 22, 2013 - 8:17 pm

Samantha - Ha! I think that final picture of Neva might be my favorite part :)

March 11, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Kate - Love this! E & L make our salads everyday. At 3 they loved to peel cucumbers and carrots and tear lettuce. Sometimes one is the dishwasher–I just fill the sink with soapy water and give them a sponge. Sometimes one person pretends to set the table for a special dinner party. Other times we just dance! We have so much fun in the kitchen!

March 11, 2013 - 2:31 pm

Jackie - Our girls also love to help in the kitchen, and as a result our kitchen is always full and always messy. Laila carries her stool around and that works for her, Amaya is always on the counter, but it keeps her from tearing everything out of the drawers and pantry!

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