Do You Cook With Your Kids?

June 14, 2016

I've written about children making their own food, getting children involved with chores from a young age, and I am absolutely adamant about making one meal for everyone, but I have a confession to make.

I really don't like cooking with my children. :( It makes me sad to say it because it seems like I should, but I don't. It's true. For years, I thought this had to do with the fact that I can be a bit of a germaphobe. It's true that children have the grubbiest hands, but those can be washed. Then I thought it was because cooking is inherently dangerous with the stove and knives and the like. I will say it definitely left an impression on me, when one year in my classroom, I had a four-year-old girl who had been burned in a cooking accident and was left scarred on her chest and neck for life! Boiling water had spilled onto her and with her turtleneck, the burn was so much worse than it would have been on bare skin. It absolutely makes me cringe to think about it. But, accidents happen, and of course we all take precautions and do our best.

No, the fact that I don't like cooking with my children has to do with something else. I realized last week, while J was off taking the kids on a walk with their scooters, that cooking is one of the few things I get to enjoy all alone since becoming a mom. Cooking for me is absolute bliss. I get into that flow zone when I'm cooking or baking and and I literally don't think about anything else. For someone who tends to be thinking a mile a minute and worrying needlessly, it is awesome to have all of my cares and worries actually cease to exist.

But, as Coco and Theo get older and more interested in what's happening in the kitchen, I don't want to exclude them entirely. I was thinking last night at dinner when Coco was whining and complaining that she didn't want to eat, and Theo was climbing on top of the table as toddlers do, that maybe we should have one or two nights where J feeds the kids leftovers or something simple and then does their bath and bed routine while I cook something more intricate just for us. That way, we can have a nice adult dinner together at least twice a week. On a few of the other nights, I could cook with the kids so that they feel involved in their meals and what they're eating. And the other nights, J could take them to the park or play in the yard while I cook alone. We have always eaten all together every night. But as they get older and their horizons expand, this could be a good change.

How do you involve your children in cooking and meal prep? I've heard really good things about this helping tower and these safety choppers were always a hit in the Montessori classroom. Do your kids set the table? Make food with you? Chop or sauté? I love getting into that flow state alone, but I'm ready to share my love of cooking with them, too! Tell me what's working for you in the comments below! Thanks. xo

Join the conversation!

  1. I do have all 3 kids cook with me. All of them are interested and all of them help in different ways. Don't get me wrong, this isn't every day, but we try for at least once a week. My kids are between the ages of 11 and 5, and all know how to use a knife safely although I do get the youngest use a Montessori cutter more often for vegetables. They measure ingredients, clean veggies, roll pasta, meal plan and my 11 year old, does his own recipes, and uses the bbq. I have a couple of the Mollly Katzen books for kids and he has really enjoyed using those books.
    It is a helpful chore to set tables, clean up and wash dishes, and it also makes them appreciate a little bit how much effort it is each day to prepare healthy, yummy food for 5 people and we can share the load as a family.

    1. Your 11 year old uses the BBQ?! Hooray! Squad goals, right there. I'm going to aim for once a week to start. We'll see if she's barbecuing in 7 years. ;) Thanks for the ideas and book suggestions. I'm going to check those out ASAP. xo

  2. My 2 year old helps put the silverware on the table and my 6 year old sets the placemats, dishes, and cups of water. Both my 6 year old and 9 year old can chop vegetables and put together things like fruit salad or green salad. And my 9 year old is able to make pasta, quesadillas, and grilled cheese, simple things like that, completely on his own. My older two can also load and unload the dishwasher and clear the table. I wouldn't say I'm super enthusiastic about lots of help in the kitchen - I totally understand the joy of getting in the flow. But I also want them to develop basic skills and contribute to our family meals. I'm trying to be pretty relaxed about it and follow their lead if they show an interest in something.

    1. That's all very impressive! Before I had kids, I would have called it normal. Now I can see how it's difficult to actually follow through on getting kids involved. Sometimes the "help" is less than, but like you said, it's all about getting them involved and understanding the process. Love it! Thanks, Kathleen. xo

  3. I made myself a rule early on that if they want to help in the kitchen, then I want to facilitate that. Otherwise you guarantee yourself an 8 year old who neither wants to help nor has the skill to do so. If they are chopping bananas and mushrooms with a bread knife at 3, then at 5, they can use a sharp knife safely (with supervision obviously). I find it trickier to do kids in the kitchen for dinner time now that I have 2 and littlest is too small to help but too big to just happily hang out (especially at meltdown-o´clock). My older one and I are more likely to bake during naptime for littlest at the moment. I do find I need extra patience because it is messier and slower, just like when they help with other chores at first, but in terms of big picture goals... kids who cook are generally less picky, more adventurous eaters and they are learning really valuable life skills.

  4. I have a 2 1/2 year old son and he absolutly loves the kitchen. Sometimes I will find him in the kitchen, setting up everything to make pancakes (get a bowl and flour, searching for the scale and a whisk, etc...)
    So.. its a win win situation :) he has an activity and we have an execuse to make pancakes every other day ;)


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