Q&A: Kids in the Kitchen

In chatting with a friend recently, I shared how my nine-year old pretty much has a free rein in the kitchen as long as she cleans up after herself. Some great dialogue followed so I thought I’d condense it here…

When did you start teaching them to cook?

Really young! As soon as they can stand beside you on a chair and help stir in ingredients. What’s really fun, we’ve done this, is to take them to the fabric store and let them each pick out fabric for an apron (aprons are easy to sew). Also nice is to give them their own mini-rolling pin and several shaped cookie cutters. If you’re near an Amish community, find a country store that carries these…there’s one in Jamesport, Missouri that has a wallful of cookie cutter choices, makes great Christmas gifts/stocking stuffers!

When I’m in the kitchen, everyone wants to help. I can’t think straight.

I totally understand! When you have more than one, get the younger ones busy in between “turns helping mommy”. Some ideas:Mother's Love

  • playing in a sinkful of bubbles
  • playing with refrigerator magnets
  • making domino towers
  • playing with a stack of nesting measuring cups
  • sitting in the high chair or at the table and making their own creations with play-dough

What can a toddler cook?

A few ideas:

  • teach them to “make toast”
  • let them help you make fruit salad (Pampered Chef has a child-safe knife perfect for slicing bananas and grapes)
  • let them spoon-spread the sauce on homemade pizza…and kids of every age love adding the toppings, especially pepperoni. Better yet, have them make their own individual-sized pizza.
  • guide them in pouring, whether it’s macaroni into boiling water, or milk into pancake batter.
  • make homemade popsicles together by freezing juice or yogurt (or a combination of the two) in 7 oz paper cups with wooden craft sticks for handles.
  • Make lemonade together: slice a lemon, put it in a quart jar with water and a bit of sugar and have toddler shake it up!

Toddlers love to set the table.

My almost three year old loves counting out five forks, etc. and placing them at their places on the table each night (sometimes upside-down). She’s an old hand at putting napkins out too. These are “her” jobs. My other girls like to fold the napkins “fancy” and keep the vase full of fresh flowers (if we have them). Now if only clearing the table off (of crafts, schoolwork, etc) was as much fun.

As they get around 4-5 years old, play around:

  • funnels are fun! Measure how many cups of water fit in a 2 liter bottle. Count them out.
  • blindfold them and have them use their 5 senses to determine ingredients. Tasting and sight must come last!

Breads and desserts are the best!

  • Make bagels together. This was my favorite bread to bake as a pre-teen because you boil the dough before you bake it! And it’s delicious…just make sure you have some yummy toppings (like flavored cream cheese) on hand!
  • Make pretzels. Shape them in the alphabet letters of your child’s name. Or into numbers.
  • Make coffee cake, kolaches, blueberry buckle ring, cookies, donuts

Lastly, I have to recommend this site with many kid-friendly recipes, and also a great home economics curriculum from Pearables.

If you don’t have kids yet, grab a niece or nephew or one from church and make some memories. And be sure to date and rate the recipe and the occasion in your cookbook. Years from now it will bring a rush of memories…

12 thoughts on “Q&A: Kids in the Kitchen”

  1. My fifteen month daughter loves to put her waffle in the toaster for breakfast. She is also helps me to unload the dish washer. I put away any large and sharp objects. then put the things that she can put away on the dishwasher door. I help make sure things get on the right shelf. We started with just her plastic dishes and have worked up from there. She thinks that it is great fun. She is very good and always makes sure that the doors are closed. When she first started she was so thorough she would put her dirty dish back in the cupboard. It is a lot of work when you try and teach your little ones a new task. It is much less work to just do it yourself but you have to keep an eye on the end goal. Which is to create hardworking and independent children.

  2. What fun! It think it is great that you let your 9 year old have free reign. She will learn so much and be so confident because of it!

    And oh what dividends, later, when all of your children cook for you and free you up to do other things! :)

  3. Gosh! I have never allowed my kids to help me in the kitchen. I just don’t have the patience to clean up a huge mess.

    I should give it a try.

  4. Absolutely agree with you Mary! My three children have helped in the kitchen since they were toddlers. I wouldn’t like to have them grown up not knowing how to look after themselves. My 9 year old daughter now makes jelly and cut out cookies and my two boys gladly clean up the bowls :-)

  5. I totally agree with you Mary! Start them while they think it is fun and when they have to do it later, it won’t seem like such a big chore to them.

    The only thing my daughters lack confidence in is loading the dishwasher (I hope to get one before they grow up and move out). πŸ˜‰

  6. Funny, Rebecca! Our dishwasher quit last fall and we haven’t replaced it (yet!). I was going to agree with Andrea though, unloading the dishwasher is a really fun chore for littles…my girls have all loved helping in that way and in nine years we’ve only had one catastrophe when oldest dropped a glass and it shattered. Thankfully she didn’t budge and emerged from the mess unscathed!

    Andrea, she’s going to be your # 1 helper in the years to come…it sounds like she’s off to the greatest of starts! I can just picture her…and one of the best things about having the second baby is that you get to love it through the oldest one’s eyes…it’s so special watching them role model you, wanting to love, feed and sing to the new baby. Ah, I’m getting nostalgic here…

    Holly, you are so right! My two oldest (9 and 6) love fixing lunch for me…they are great salad makers, even to making croutons. They know this is my favorite lunch ever…a big green salad. :) It really works out great because 9 yo loves to cook but doesn’t really enjoy doing dishes while 6 yo REALLY enjoys doing dishes…so they make a good team!

    Leticia, I understand about the stress of messes. We have to learn to relax though, lol. Just don’t leave any cannisters of sugar at the table’s edge with the lid tilted on. Spilled sugar is a sticky that fights back! I do best one on one with my kids cooking with me. That way there’s no rivalry over who gets to pour what and so on. Teach them how to clean up in between each step too. That’s the only way to cook, imo, washing as you go!

    Amy, I need to teach my oldest to make jelly! What a great idea, especially as much as they love it. With all the craftsy things you do, I can just imagine your daughter being full of the great skills that will be so lacking in future generations. Even today’s grandma’s aren’t really passing along those skills. I was so tickled when my mom taught my oldest the basics of crochet…now we need lesson 2 (hint, hint, mom!)

    This is a fun topic, I’ve really enjoyed all your responses!

  7. I’ve been so bad about this! I didn’t let my teen touch anything in the kitchen until she was at least 12. I think part of it was that I never really knew how to cook, so having someone else in the kitchen was a hindrance to an already inept cook. I love your ideas! My toddlers like to help me grind the coffee–that’s about as far as we’ve gotten.

  8. Well, mine haven’t even done that, Georgiana! Except in a pioneer unit we did with a really old coffee-grinder! Ha. I have so many memories of cooking with my mom and older sisters that I guess it just came naturally to want to include them. I just love how necessary it makes them feel, to know they’re helping and doing a great job. My 9 yo is so confident in the kitchen, it makes my day to know that she’s probably going to have the cooking part of homemaking in the bag by the time she’s on her own. It helps that she loves it!

  9. These are wonderful ideas Mary. When I was growing up my mum let my sister and I help her in the kitchen and gradually I learned to love baking etc. Now my own children can all cook too (my two boys and my daughter). I started by letting them help me make things like playdoh when they were toddlers and seeing the mixing processes etc. They still love today cutout cookies. Last week my daughter made a chocolate cake on her own. They certainly love it!

    Amy’s last blog post..Philippians 4:8

  10. Oh yeah! Playdoh is a huge hit to make with kids! Then they have edible playdoh, which my dh won’t let me make with the kiddos…he abhors the idea that they might someday try eating real playdoh! Lol.

    I’ve seen your daughter cooking at your blog via your great pictures! Isn’t it fun!?! My oldest loves doing cakes too…wish they could get together. I’d love to have mine take cake decorating classes with a friend…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge