{cooking with kids} Tips to Keep You Sane

Some say that the kitchen is the heart of the house; the warm gathering spot where good food and laughter is shared.  Unfortunately, this warm, lovely place can sometimes turn into a battle ground when attempting to cook with your kids.  Flour goes flying, tears start pouring and mom/dad feel like shouting.

I know that cooking with kids can sometimes be a bit frustrating.   Maybe the sugar cookie recipe you had envisioned as a “family fun time” turned into a kitchen disaster.  Or, the quick bread recipe actually took ages to make because you had to continually break up fights amongst your kids.  Despite these set backs, I want to encourage you to continue on in your efforts to cook with your kids.  Give it another shot.  The fun and learning that can occur from a simple batch of cookie dough is exceptional.

Here are a few suggestions to help your next cooking session to flow smoothy:

  1. Get the ingredients out before hand and have them out on your counter, ready to go.  I let my kids scoop the flour right from our large flour bin, so I get my large bins out and have my kids take turns scooping directly from them. If you are not comfortable with that, or think your kids will make a huge mess, then consider pre-measuring the necessary amounts of each ingredient into small bowls or bags. When each ingredient is needed, pass that corresponding bowl/bag to your child and let them scoop from it.  This does take some leg work ahead of time on your part, but it ensures the correct amount is used and you don’t have to watch as closely while they measure.
  2. Know your recipe. When your kids are standing waiting for a turn to measure flour, it is not the time to familiarize yourself with the recipe.  Read the recipe ahead of time.  Your kids will get bored, and you will get stressed, if you don’t have an idea of what you are doing.   Make sure you have at least read the recipe and are familiar with what you will be doing.
  3. Try working at an kitchen island, peninsula or table.  I like working at an island/peninsula because I can be on one side and my kids on the other. I can see what they are doing, we can all reach the ingredients easily and everyone has space.  If your kitchen counter space limits this, try working at your table!
  4. Do not be in a hurry.  If you are rushing your kids through a recipe then most likely you will get frustrated and so will your kids.  Take your time, go slowly, and have fun.  Now is not the time to see how fast you can make a batch of brownies and be out the door.  You and your kids will enjoy yourselves more if there is no pressure to finish by a certain time.
  5. Let your kids have a say.  Give your kids a choice between two recipes you want to make: cookies? or brownies?, banana bread? or blueberry muffins?, etc.  I have found that the more included they feel in the decision, the more interest they have in the project.

I love baking and have been lucky that my kids like being in the kitchen with me.  My son has been at the counter helping since he was able to stand on a chair and now that he is the big brother he is showing his sister how to measure flour and mix dough.  I have found that not only has it been a fun way to spend time together, but it also has been a very educational time as well.  There are many things kids can learn while cooking with you, besides becoming familiar with the kitchen tools.

Here are a few ideas to some conversations started:

  1. Discuss where your ingredients come from {grocery store, farmers market, backyard garden, local merchants, etc.}
  2. Discuss the ingredients you use and why you prefer one over the other: backyard eggs vs. store bought eggs, whole wheat flour vs. all-purpose flour, maple syrup vs. white sugar, organic vs. conventional, you get the idea.
  3. Ask your kids to help read the recipe. For younger kids, have them identify numbers, letters and sight words in the recipe.
  4. Teach your kids about fractions using the measuring cups and measuring spoons.
  5. Teach your kids about time, and how to read a clock.  Use this to let them know when their cookies will be done baking!
  6. The conversation options really are endless.  The other day my son wanted to know how the mixer worked, so we discussed motors and electricity.

I will admit that all of this is a lot easier if there are one or two children, but it is possible to have fun {and complete a recipe!} with even more helpers. Do not despair if you have an army of kitchen helpers.  At Thanksgiving two years ago, I baked dessert with the help of 7 of my nieces/nephews (all under the age of 6).  We laughed and danced and made a delicious layered dessert.

When you have a larger group of children, it helps to keep the troops entertained during even slight down times. Try singing a song all together while an adult chops ingredients.  Or, have the kids play “follow the leader” while standing around the counter waiting for their turn {wiggle your arms, clap your hands, stomp your feet, wink one eye, etc…}.  A favorite in our house has been a game we call “dancing to the mixer”. When the mixer turns on, everyone dances. When the mixer stops, everyone has to freeze!

The main goal here is to have fun and to bring your kids alongside you in the kitchen.  They will love to stir, add ingredients, and of course, taste samples along the way.



25 Comments Add yours

  1. Becky, you are so right about sticking with cooking with kids. My mom taught me math on measuring cups and that lesson built a life in the kitchen for me. Thanks for this!

    1. Becky says:

      Thanks for the note! My son learned his fractions from the measuring cups too!!! It was the only way I could make it intersting for him! hahaha.

  2. jakesprinter says:

    You have a very creative post here my friend 🙂

    1. Becky says:

      thank you~glad you enjoyed the post.

      1. jakesprinter says:

        Your Welcome Becky,I1m so happy if you join me with my friends every week more power to your blog 🙂

  3. Great ideas! I have a little kitchen helper, and although I get frustrated with her good intended helping, I know how valuable it is to have her there learning with me. These tips will help…especially the peninsula idea. Thanks!

    1. Becky says:

      You are right, it is SO easy to get frustrated. Every since I transitioned to using the peninsula it has gotten a lot easier. I even move the mixer over to my peninsula even though it is a hassle. The kids love it, and it makes the whole process more enjoyable!

  4. Margot says:

    Really great advice Becky. But one more thing…you do not mind the kids getting flour on themselves or the floor, etc; it all gets cleaned up later! It’s more fun not to “stress about the mess”, haha.

    1. Becky says:

      Margot you are totally right! I forgot a huge point!!! Don’t worry about the mess, its easy enough to clean up after the fact!! Thanks for mentioning that one, it really is important!!!!

  5. I love the tips about conversation starters while cooking. I cook a lot with my daughter and never really thought to expand on the things she asks about in the moment, but I should. I think I’m on “minimize the damage” patrol and not always super present. Thanks!

    1. Becky says:

      Hope your future conversations go well with your daughter! Let me know if you come up with some other topics!!

  6. Dianna says:

    Good for you. every time I tried to cook with my kids, I thought I would have a nervous break down. I love the mixer idea. I may do that with them now even though they are in their 20s.

    1. Becky says:

      Hahaha!! awesome. Do your kids still help you cook once in a while Dianna?

  7. Deanna says:

    These are so great!! My daughter loves to cook/bake with me (my son is still a little young to help, but still hangs out in the kitchen with us). Thanks for the helpful tips.

    I think you should sell that first picture to Rumford for their PR initiatives 🙂

    1. Becky says:

      Deanna, Just you wait. Your daugther will be teaching your son all the ins and outs of the kitchen before you know it! My son was teaching my daugther how to crack an egg…it was funny!
      I tried to crop out the Rumford but couldn’t without loosing faces..oh well! 🙂

  8. Ruby says:

    Oh my gosh, this is so cute. What a great mom! I have such good memories of my mom letting me help her bake and cook when I was little. Your kids will cherish this for a long time 🙂

    1. Becky says:

      Ruby, thanks for the note. I too have wonderful memories of baking with my mom and I hope my kids will carry these memories on with them as well.

  9. Alexis says:

    Great ideas Becky – I love the post! My three year old loves to bake with me, but having your additional tips will make it even more fun for both of us.

    1. Becky says:

      Thanks Alexis! Hope you have fun cooking with your own cuties!!!

  10. Kris says:

    Great post! I give my mom all the credit for the abilities in the kitchen, and hope to pass it on to my son. It seems so natural to have him standing on the chair next to me.

  11. Betsy says:

    Such great ideas!

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