Kids in the Kitchen: 6 tips plus a recipe!

 

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


 

Lonnie and I both love cooking.  It’s a good thing, since we eat pretty much every meal here — going out to eat is still a fairly dicey affair, with our crew! Though I know we could do better at managing our food budget and eliminating waste, I am proud of how much we accomplish in the kitchen, in terms of cooking and baking healthy, wholesome and delicious meals for our family.  One of my favorite times is when Lonnie and I collaborate on a meal or food project and while it’s not ALWAYS smooth sailing (um, let’s just not talk about that plum jam experiment back in Sept, okay?) it generally turns out pretty fabulously.  I will not claim our kids are perfect, adventurous eaters by any stretch of the imagination (ha!), but I do think we are on the right track, and like to believe that the food they are being exposed to (and yes, sometimes eating as well) will help give them a strong foundation for healthy eating and enjoying the process of cooking — not just the end result — for the rest of their lives.

I am still, however, learning how to incorporate our love of cooking and eating into our family time, in terms of having the kids HELP with the cooking. They love to, for the most part, but egads, the chaos in the kitchen drives me a little batty.  Here are some tidbits of what I have learned so far — though it’s still very much a work in progress!

1. Get some kid cookbooks or other nicely illustrated cookbooks, and let them pick recipes themselves sometimes.  I usually make the decisions about food and recipes, but right now my girls LOVE looking at their cookbooks and are always asking to make something out of them.  Which also means….

Hey, give me a lick of that frosting, will 'ya?

2. Plan ahead.  Take the time to find a recipe, put the ingredients on the shopping list, and set aside a time to do the cooking project.  Spur of the moment can work, too, of course!  But if I don’t plan for it, I find it’s really easy to put cooking projects with the kids on the back burner and never get around to them.  I often think I will be able to cook with them, but end up with a time crunch without enough time to let them help.

My busy baking companions

3. If you have multiple kids, pick one at a time to help cook.  With two, maybe it’s possible to work together, but holy moly, for some reason my stress level goes through the roof when all three of my girls try to join in at once.  There are squabbles over space, cooking jobs, and somebody is always feeling bored or left out.  If you are out there and have tips for me about how to manage this, send them my way!  In the meantime, I have to make sure my other two are occupied with something else while I cook with one of my girls.

Emma's Christmas Cookies

4. Don’t cook with kids in a rush.  It just doesn’t work!  I need to drill this through my brain, as it’s so easy to say yes to letting the kids help me at dinner time, but the end result is usually not that great of an experience for any of us.  Better to do it when there is time to let them take their time, make mistakes, make a mess, and not have to worry about getting things into the oven, onto the table or cleaned up in a timely manner.

Salad spinner + toddlers = fun!

5. Take a leap of faith – let your children try new tasks you may not be convinced  they can accomplish, because it’s very likely they’ll surprise you!  Of course, you don’t want to set them up for failure either, but I know I am very guilty of not letting my kids do enough while cooking or baking, often because I am frazzled and trying to avoid a mess or a time crunch.  If you can plan to not have those weights bearing down on you, and Let It Go, your kids will relish doing all the “grown up” jobs and be SO pleased with themselves when they have success.   In our house this would include things like breaking eggs, measuring & pouring, cutting vegetables (with a plastic or table knife — I haven’t let my kids use our sharp knives yet), rolling or shaping dough.  When I do have those other pressures present, I let them do the more basic work of dumping pre-measured ingredients, whisking and stirring, and they are usually okay with that level of helping, too.

A rare moment with all three cooking. It happens, occasionally!

6. You don’t have to include your child in the same cooking project as you to keep them involved and entertained while YOU are working in the kitchen.  I often set up one of my kids next to me at the counter (on chairs or stools, or a learning tower which we had when they were younger ) with kitchen tools to play with, a simple art project like watercolor painting, kitchen sink play or color mixing, and that keeps them up at my level (away from their siblings, sometimes very key!) while we work side by side. Then we can interact and keep tabs on each other, but I don’t have to slow down my project or tailor it to their skill level.  And they still have a lot of fun, and feel like they are doing something “with” me (at least partly).   Win-win!

Playing at the counter with containers and little creatures

It’s nice to write these out, because I certainly can use a refresher on these concepts, often!  I keep thinking I should plan one day a week to be sure to do some cooking with the kids — our “baking” day, perhaps. Once we get in the routine, maybe it would stick!  I’ll leave you with a recipe my family really enjoys.  It is a slightly “healthified” version of my mom’s banana bread.  Not 100% crunchy (yes, I do use sugar and fat, and I won’t apologize for it!) but pushing it in a direction that tastes just as great and makes my guilt a wee bit less.  We often double it, and freeze one loaf!

Emma helps with sifting & stirring

“Healthier-Than-Mom’s” Banana Bread

  • 2/3 cup sugar (I have, on rare occasions, been known to cut this down to 1/2 cup, adding in some applesauce to compensate)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 6 Tablespoons shortening (I use a combo of coconut oil and Earth’s Balance margarine, to make it dairy-free)
  • 3  large bananas (roughly, I add more or less sometimes, subbing occasionally with equivalent amounts of applesauce, pumpkin, zucchini or nothing!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 T – 1/4 cup flax seed meal and/or wheat germ (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1  1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I also do half whole wheat, half white)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons up to 1/3 cup of soy/almond/coconut/any milk, to compensate for the whole wheat flour & flax/wheat germ additions — batter should be thick, but not dry or overly stiff
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 (F), grease & flour a loaf pan
  2. Cream shortening and sugar, add lemon juice
  3. Mash banana and add to mix
  4. Add eggs, beat until smooth
  5. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients, sift or whisk well
  6. Add nuts to wet mixture, then dry ingredients until combined.  Add milk as needed. Do not overbeat!
  7. Pour into pan, smooth if necessary
  8. Bake for 1 hour or until knife/toothpick comes out clean
  9. Enjoy warm, cold, with butter or margarine, plain, toasted, with peanut butter or Nutella (yum!)

What are your tips for cooking with kids?  Any tips for me about how to handle cooking with more than one kid at a time?  What are your kids favorite things to cook or bake? 


***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 8 with all the carnival links.)

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21 comments to Kids in the Kitchen: 6 tips plus a recipe!

  • Oy – I completely agree about not trying to cook with kids in a rush. I’m already a type A that has to practice breathing exercises when Kieran helps in the kitchen – if I’m in a hurry, forget it! Great tips Kristin, thanks for sharing :)

  • Greetings from Malaysia! Hopping in from the carnival!

    Your kids are so so so adorable! Love the picture of your girl with the Christmas cookies!

    ~ Jenny ( http://www.imafulltimemummy.com/ )

  • Thanks for these helpful tips! This is exactly the kind of thing I need to hear for a couple of months from now when Baby can start doing this kind of “help” in the kitchen :-)

  • Sound advice. I always find myself getting flustered when I deviate from these common sense guidelines. One way I like to include the kids when I am just trying to keep them busy is to move an ingredient to or from a recepitcal while I am doing more complicated tasks. I end up with one extra dish to wash, but they have the fun of putting on an apron and participating.

  • we have similar photos! and i do agree on the kid-friendly cookbook. i found that what helped also is when i got her the kid friendly REAL bakeware with colors, etc. to help her distinguish the measurements. we also love making those sugar cookies!!

  • Zoe

    I love your photos of cooking with your girls, it looks like you guys have a lot of fun together. I can’t wait to start cooking with my little girl when she is a bit bigger. And you are the second blog post I’ve read today to mention the learning tower, I need to get one!

    • Kristin

      Zoe, we loved the learning tower for awhile — it was great when my girls were young toddlers and not too aware of where they were standing on chairs — they felt really safe and steady in it. The downside of the one we had was that it was not collapsable and took up a fair bit of space, and where I found to put it was across the kitchen and it was hard to lug it every time they wanted to use it. And then it didn’t work so well when I had three kids — they got too big to share it, and it took up too much space at the counter. Great when they were little, but we grew out of it by 3yo or so. Luckily, they have great resale value!!!

  • I love all your pictures! And I will try baking that bread now. :)

    One of the magazines Mikko gets always has an easy recipe to follow, and he always wants to do it immediately. I agree, if I don’t put the ingredients on the shopping list and make it a plan, it’s easy to let that enthusiasm slip away.

    I also second giving them something else to do while you cook — I’m always surprised when that works, but it does!

  • [...] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • Love the recipe – adding it to my ‘must try list’. These are good reminders for me as I juggle my two kids in the kitchen with me…today they were both at the sink wanting to wash up – hilarious and very wet! After a while I reassigned my daughter to peel and chop bananas, which we freeze for ice cream. My 2yo son likes to grate or squeeze juice (neither of these he can really do but he feels like a real grown-up when I let him) and these are good options to keep him occupied when my older child needs to get more involved in real helping. For us the alternative games work less well – they are both intent on getting involved in my business but I’m really going to look at what different activities I can set up as usually the biggest interruptions I get are when they leave the kitchen!

  • As always, brilliant. Salad spinner- yet another reason to get one! (on our x-mas list to ourselves). I also saw your crockpot- our other thing on the parent santa list. Cooking with one kid at a time- so right on. Leaps of faith for things you think are “above her ability” also totally agree with this one!! They are often more capable than we think!

    • Kristin

      Moorea, my girls love the salad spinner. We’ve been known to put little people in there to go for a “ride”, which is great fun, too. At our preschool they actually use old ones for spin art, as well! Caution, though — if they drop from any sort of height, they break. We’re on our third salad spinner, dang it! I LOVE our crock pot, too, it’s so great.

  • You are so right in saying you need to plan for activities in the kitchen… I can totally relate to rushing to get dinner on the table and not have time to allow kids to help.

    Your girls are gorgeous :)

  • [...] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • [...] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • [...] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • [...] megan — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • [...] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! [...]

  • […] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! […]

  • […] Kids in the Kitchen: 6 Tips Plus a Recipe — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares six tips for overcoming some of the the difficulties of cooking with multiple young sous chefs, and a recipe they all can agree on! […]

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