Cooking with your children can seem to some like an overwhelming task. You want to rush some nights to get home and get dinner going. During that time you have kiddos begging for snacks at your feet like little puppies while trying to read and carryout a recipe. Instead of looking at this like a distraction, turn their attention into a positive interaction with you! Make cooking count. Make this time a memorable time with your children when you can.
Let go a little
Some things to focus on, first of all you have to lose a bit of the control factor. Depending on your child’s age will depend on how much they are able to help. It was so great to see my preschooler when he was a toddler be curious about cooking. I would let him sit with me and help when he could as I verbally went over things in a fun way with him and let him explore safely with the cooking utensils and tools. This kept him entertained and busy while I was able to get the cooking done. As he has grown into the preschool age he is able to do a lot more. I must let go of my control a bit in order to allow him to be creative and have fun with me when I cook. Not always will he start stirring slow enough so that things don’t go flying, but if I don’t let him see this he will not learn and get the full experience. It’s a mess worth making!
Make extra time
You also need to allow yourself the extra time to cook with your child. If your dinner needs to be done by a certain time, allow for the bit of extra time it will take to have your little one fully help. What I like to do is have my preschooler make part of the meal and I introduce different dishes a little at a time depending on the menu. His favorite thing to make is dessert! While it is fun to make the sweet treat and lick the spoon, I want to expose him to all categories of making a meal. I have to make sure that I allow the extra time, so I don’t stress myself out trying to get dinner done “on-time”.
Read out the recipe
A great thing to focus on is reading the recipe to your preschooler. This is a big opportunity to expose him/her to print they probably wouldn’t see elsewhere at this age. They are beginning to read and write and there as a great mix of both letters and numbers here! I like to have my preschooler seek and find the numbers as I read the recipe, then we read the whole line together, and then preform the cooking task.
As you can see from the photos, we worked on a recipe together making Cole Slaw. My kiddos love salad! I get asked often, “How do you get them to like salad?!!” The trick is I let them explore salads I order or make. Luckily grew to loving them! I try to always offer one thing on their plate that is a favorite and salad is a go to! Having my preschooler make Cole Slaw with me also encouraged him to be more eager to try it. I was able to hook him with “You made this part of the meal, you should be so proud, it will taste extra yummy since you made this!” Getting him excited to try it for the first time as an older kiddo was exciting and now he loves to help make it!
Bottom line is…make cooking with your child count! Be adventurous in your meal choices and expose your kiddos to different tastes. Pretend you’re on a cooking show and be animated and fun! Create an opportunity for your child to form a lasting memory with you while exposing them to literature and numbers. Great conversations tend to start in the kitchen, start exposing your children to this at an early age. Cooking not only produces meals, but also great connections.
Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher