Cooking with the Ages

What a disaster! Flour sprinkled on the floor, sticky fingers and hair, and now it’s bath too!? That’s the image that first popped into my mind when thinking about cooking with kids. But then I gave it a shot….and I’m soooo glad I did.

Of course, with 4 young kids helping, it can get a little crazy sometimes, but well worth it for them and me.

Every mess can be cleaned up, and after all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. The very best moment, for me, is when they ask to try it even though it’s loaded with vegetables that they typically wouldn’t eat.

When I started cooking with Lily, she was less than 16 months old. I loved “kid friendly” recipes because they were simple, with a limited number of ingredients. But I also found that those “kid friendly” recipes lacked guidance on tasks for specific ages. Every child’s cooking ability is different, so it’s nice to have a little guidance with new recipes before diving in.

To help you and your family get started, all of the recipes we post will have cooking tasks broken down by age. Below are some general guidelines:

As a dietitian, I can’t resist the temptation to modify every recipe, optimizing nutritional value for our kids. Don’t worry though, all of my recipes will be kid-tested and approved by our little chefs.

Here are a few tips before getting started:

  • Talk with your kids ahead of time, explaining what each person’s duties will be. Most importantly, make sure they know what is off limits and why, such as knives, burners, ovens, scissors, raw meat, etc.
  • Try to focus on what they CAN do, not what they can’t do.
  • Turn everything into a learning opportunity. Cooking can teach them math, science, shapes, kitchen etiquette, and new techniques.
  • Provide each child with an apron. I found that this is an important step in our house. When they have their aprons on, they know we are cooking, not running back and forth. Aside from being just plain cute, it makes them feel important and officially part of the cooking team.
  • RELAX and ENJOY your time with them. Spills and messes can be cleaned up at the end.

Now let’s start cooking! 🙂

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