By Lisa Witherspoon, author of www.thegoldenspoons.blogspot.com
We often hear chefs like Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse talking about Cooking with Kids. In 2007, Disney-Pixar even released an animated movie called Ratatouille that was all about cooking. The main character was a rat named Remy who wanted to become a famous French chef. The teachers at the wonderful preschool my daughters attend(ed) cook with their classes at least once a month. When I taught preschoolers prior to having my own kids, I also cooked with them on a regular basis.
You can certainly let kids help even when you are making a sophisticated, complicated dish. They can do simple tasks such as measuring, stirring, or chopping (if they are a little older). However, it is also important to remember that “cooking” with kids may or may NOT involve actually cooking or baking. So, even if you are a grown up who is not super handy in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to “cook” with your kids.
Here are a few fun, simple recipes that anyone can make with their kids (and a few pointers on how to make them educational).
Roll large marshmallows in a little water and then in a little Jello powder (any flavor). Watch the “magic!”
(Talk about the texture and color of the powder; count the marshmallows; they look a little like sushi, so take the opportunity to talk about Japan and food from other cultures.)
Use English muffins, hamburger buns, or sandwich thins as the crust. Top with your favorite pizza toppings and pop them in the oven for a few minutes. Voila!
(Kids use fine motor skills by spreading sauce, pinching cheese, etc.; talk about the shapes of the bread, toppings, etc.; try a new topping.)
Make instant chocolate pudding according to directions on box. Stir in some crushed Oreos and gummy worms. Edible dirt!!
(Let kids use their fine motor skills to stir and to crush the cookies; focus on measuring when you make the pudding; count the number of cookies and gummy worms.)
Layer yogurt (any flavor), fruit, and toppings in a see-through container. Our favorite is vanilla yogurt, strawberries, and Oreos!
(Focus on following the proper sequence of steps with the layers; use the opportunity to try some new fruits.)
Pigs in a Blanket/Crescent Dogs
This is basically wrapping crescent rolls around hot dogs and baking them. For the complete recipe (and a how-to video) go to this website.
(Kids use fine motor skills to roll the hot dogs and cut the hot dogs; since it does involve baking, kids will have to pay attention to time.)
Fruit Salad or Snack mix
Simply mix different kinds of fruit together for fruit salad. For fun snack mix, toss together kids’ favorite items (Goldfish, Cheerios, Teddy Grahams, marshmallows, etc.)
(Talk about different colors, sizes, textures of the items you are mixing; great opportunity to throw in a new ingredient; kids can also count item as they are tossed in.)
There are thousands of recipes for dip. An easy one is simply mixing equal parts salsa and Ranch dressing.
(Try a new vegetable “covered” with the dip; fine motor skills of stirring; get creative with your ingredients or you presentation.)
In addition to the FUN you will have, there are many reasons why is cooking such a great activity to do with kids. Here are some reasons – many are fairly obvious, but others you may not have thought of before –
1) Cooking teaches math concepts. Measuring, counting, fractions, time – these are all important skills when you are in the kitchen.
2) Cooking encourages fine motor skills. Children must use the tiny muscles in their hands and fingers to stir, pinch, pour, and/or manipulate ingredients. These are the same muscles they will use to write, tie shoes, and do so many other things as they get older.
3) Cooking teaches kids to follow instructions. Sometimes we actually follow a recipe and sometimes we just follow the steps we have memorized. Either way, when we are cooking, we have to follow certain steps in a certain order. Otherwise, our dish may be ruined. What kid doesn’t need a little practice following directions??
4) Cooking encourages creativity. Kids can be creative in the cookie shapes they cut out or the decorations they use; they can be creative with pizza toppings or different types of noodles. The possibilities are only limited by their imagination (and the ingredients you have on hand!).
5) Cooking encourages kids to try new things. Got a picky eater?? Research shows that kids are more likely to try something new if they took part in making it.
6) Cooking teaches kids about scientific concepts. They can learn basics of cause and effect (i.e. Leave something in the oven too long and what happens??). They can also learn about heat processes (i.e. boiling leads to steam) and cold processes (i.e. freezing). They can see how colors and flavors change when they are mixed. All of these are basic principles of science they will use for the rest of their lives.
Got some fun “Kids In The Kitchen” ideas you can share? Please comment below! And don’t forget about the many ideas on Pinterest!