Jackjack has been my kitchen buddy for many years now. He’s been chopping, mixing, and mess-making with me since he was about 3.
While there isn’t a magic potion to get your kids helping in the kitchen, there are many things you can do that will help. Here are just a few:
1. Get ready for the job.
A safe, no-skid stepstool is great for bringing kids up to where the action is. An apron doesn’t hurt, either. Toddlers can watch/help with this clever gizmo called a “kitchen helper.”
Cooking projects always start with the requirement, “Wash your hands with soap.” I didn’t realize that I’d have to specify the use of soap until I had a little boy. Ahem.
3. Provide safe tools.
You don’t want to spend the whole time hovering over your Iron Chef, and they don’t want it either. Set them up for safety and success with butter knives, whisks, and maybe a rolling pin. (Be prepared for unorthodox rolling pin techniques.)
4. Make age-appropriate recipes.
Now is not the time to try a souffle or bust out the hand torch for creme brulee. Try strawberry freezer jam and fresh salsa instead of water-bath canning. There’s just too much potential for disaster with a giant pot of water on the stove.
5. Let them help.
Try not to panic over the way your kitchen will look when you’re done. Little ones can hold the measuring cup and pour ingredients into the bowl. You will hear about it if you try to help them!
When they get a little older, they can use cool gizmos like a crinkle cutter for veggies and an egg slicer for mushrooms and strawberries.
6. Expect and encourage snacking.
You’ve come so far–don’t say no just when things are getting good! Depending on how “munchy” your kids are, you might need to buy twice as much fruit or veggies as the recipe calls for. I expected this with fruit, but I was shocked when Jackjack ate a pile of raw green beans as they came out of the frencher-slicer-thingy.
7. Request, don’t require.
I ask Jackjack to help cook, I don’t make him do it. Nor do I position it as a drudgery or a punishment. This simple courtesy goes a long way! A little bit of silliness while we work helps as well.