Cooking With Children
Cooking with children can be fun, challenging and rewarding.
How do I know? I don’t. Ha ha. I have a good imagination though:).
I did grow up as the oldest of six and have nieces and nephews. This definitely doesn’t make me an expert. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I don’t know the first thing about raising children. Reading books, occasionally baby sitting, and listening to stories of other parents is so far from actually living through it myself.
I know that many of you would be very skeptical if I shared any thoughts about this subject. I’m well aware of the quote: “You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who’ve never had any.”
This is why all the advice in this post is from my sister, Elina. She has two beautiful little girls and I am in awe of her skills as a parent. She is such a wonderful Mother.
I am just a bit smitten by these two little princesses, so please indulge me all the cute pictures in this post. Aren’t they adorable?
One thing I do know, is that Moms and Dads are super busy. There are so many things that need to get done, and the little ones need so much attention. As parents, I’m sure it’s even more important to you guys to feed your family a balanced meal and spend quality time as a family at the dinner table. I’m sure I would want my children to get proper nourishment and family interaction.
How do you get dinner on the table if you have little tykes hanging around your ankles?
1. If you aren’t pressed for time, include the children in the kitchen tasks.
Don’t attempt this is you have half an hour to produce a meal. This is not the time to engage your children in the culinary arts. However, when you have a little bit more available time, let them help you out. If you start teaching them early on, they will be more likely to help you more as they get older.
My Mom let me help her since I was a toddler and I was always intrigued by cooking. By the time I was ten, I could prepare a simple meal for the family.
At first, they will be more of a hindrance than a help, but with time, they will learn. Before you know it, you can put your feet up and relax with a good book while your offspring are busily cooking.
Make cooking fun.
As I already mentioned, you can’t do this if you’re stressed or in a bad mood.
Give them simple tasks and lots of encouraging words. Make them feel important that they are helping out.
My parents used to tell me all the time that I was such a good helper and they just didn’t know how they could handle things without me. Now, I know that was far from the truth. I’m sure I was more in the way than actually productive and helpful. However, I believed them with all my heart. I felt so appreciated and important.
Give them simple tasks that they can easily do.
Set the table, sweep the floor, mix the ingredients in a bowl. Of course, it depends on the age of the child. Give them a task that is appropriate for their age.
2. If you’re pressed for time, but your “littles” can’t bear to be separated from you, and need to be in the same room with you, give them something to occupy themselves with, right in your sight.
Sit them in a high chair and give them something to play with.
Elina gives Ariella some measuring cups that she likes to play with right on the kitchen floor.
Adalia will stand for hours next to the sink and “wash dishes”. She is completely soaked, but she’s absolutely happy.
Let them load the dishwasher.
As long as it isn’t dangerous, there’s no harm for them to play with the pantry ingredients.
You may turn around to find your 1 year old devouring a container of Cool Whip that the 3 year old took out of the freezer while you had your back turned. That’s ok. Nobody died from eating some Cool Whip.
3. Do simple meals that don’t take too much time.
I may not be a Mom, but even childless people are busy sometimes:), so I can somewhat relate.
Especially when you have toddlers, it’s perfectly fine not to prepare gourmet meals that take hours and hours. I’ll bet most kids like simple food anyway. Here are some ideas of Easy Weeknight Meals.
Include a lot of leftovers. Many meals taste great as leftovers. Take advantage of it. This way, you can cut down on kitchen duty quite significantly.
Freezer Cooking is especially helpful when you’re a busy parent. You can’t beat having a homemade meal that requires only 2 things – defrost and reheat. Not bad, right?
It can be a bit challenging to find the time to cook the meals in the first place. They don’t magically appear in your freezer, do they?
Many times you can cook a double batch of whatever you’re making and freeze half of it. It doesn’t take too much extra time to make an extra Lasagna if you’re already making one for dinner.
Get the help of your spouse. They can watch the children while you cook for a day or two. This will save you so much time! Besides, your children probably love spending time with Daddy. Or Mommy, whatever the case may be. Grandmas and Grandpas are enthusiastic babysitters too.
Partner up with other parents. Cook several batches of your favorites meals and exchange them with the other parents’ favorite meals.
4. Prep dinner in the mornings or evenings when the children are asleep.
This will also help cut down on the time that you need to spend cooking dinner. Many meals will take less than half an hour if you can do most of the prep work ahead of time.
You’ll be able to do the prep work much faster too, if you don’t have to worry about your cute little “distractions”.
I do this one myself all the time. I work nights, so on the days that I work, I don’t have much time to be cooking. I like to prep the day before, or in the mornings when I come home from work. Then I get some sleep and when I get up, I can get dinner ready really quickly and still get to work on time.
4. Occupy them with things that keep them entertained for awhile.
You know your children better than anyone. What do they like to do that will keep their attention for a while?
Elina’s girls love to color and draw. Many times that means that Elina will come back to find them with green hands, but the secret is to buy washable markers.
The girls also love to play together. It’s a great advantage to have multiple children, since they will entertain each other.
If all else fails turn on their favorite cartoons. Or let them play with your iPad. We all know that children are captivated by electronics.
Bring out the “special toys” that they can only play with while you are cooking dinner. This will make it so much more interesting for them.
5. Don’t stress yourself out.
Yes, it’s nice to have a homemade dinner on the table. Women especially have an inner drive to be “SuperMom”.
More than anything, your kids want a happy Mom and Dad. They don’t care if they’re having takeout food for dinner. That luxurious meal isn’t important to them if that means that their parents are stressed out and frustrated.
Your kids care more that their smiling Mom is sharing brownies and milk with them. They don’t care if those brownies were made from scratch, with chocolate from an exotic island, or that the brownies were made from a box or store-bought.
Now it’s your turn.
Someday, when my dreams of being a mother will finally come true, I’d love to be somewhat prepared with the advice of the experts – you. Please share what works for your family. I’m so eager to hear how you guys do it. In my opinion, you are superheroes.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful Mothers! Cherish your roles as mothers and remember that it is truly a gift to be treasured.
Beautiful babies and wonderful post! Thank you!
Oh I so relate to “little tykes hanging around your ankles”. If my son is not running over my feet in his walker than he is crawling around me while I’m trying to cook. I don’t know if this is a good idea… sometimes I let him play with the contents of refrigerator door. A basket of clean laundry or socks drawer keeps him occupied for a long time. He loves it and stays out of my way. Your nieces are adorable Olga.
aww great post. I can relate as well. My 5 year old daughter loves to help in the kitchen. My 2 year old, on the other hand, won’t let me do anything if he’s not occupied with something else. Kids kitchen with plastic food, pots and pans helps a lot. For the most part, I do try to do most of my baking after my kids go to bed.
Love the pictures!
Great post =]] Our little man is still a baby so all I can relate with is the entertainment part =] looking forward to cooking/baking with him later on though! 😀
My 2.5 year old girl, loves when i let her do cupcakes or any baking with me, she will help me pour everything into my big mixer then she helps mixing it by hand and of course it will get all over it but i know she’s enjoying and loves it, cause after we’re done with our cup cakes she goes into her play kitchen and makes her cupcakes with her play mixer and it sooo funny watching how she follows my steps from measuring to mixing, then bakes in her oven 🙂
my 10 month old girl just loves being on the floor with a whole bunch of toys around her:)
so having little helpers in the kitchen is quite fun and messy too:)
P.S your sisters girls are beyond ADORABLE!! soo cute 🙂
Great post , Olga….. Both the girls are so so so cute…..
Thanks for the tips Olga…..I know you will b a wonderful mom…and your dreams will come true very soon.
I like 5. DON’T STRESS YOURSELF OUT the most.
I hav three year old son and he is quite energetic. By d end of the day when I m tired…I get frustrated n my temper can easily go out of track…But I try to stay calm.
I donot want to b a bad example for my son.
Kids don’t like lectures n instructions..so by being, what we want them to be is the best way to teach anything to them.
Awesome post Olga. I have a school age child, a 5 year old and a baby. My oldest loves, loves, loves to wash dishes. Both of the older ones enjoy setting up the table, and when I start taking out my baking stuff, or they see me reaching for my wire whip, they are right there wanting to help. Before I thought that was annoying, but I realize now that they get better with time about cracking the eggs, not spilling liquids and even most of the flour now stays in the bowls. Who knows, they might grow up to become wonderful cooks. If nothing else though, they will at least know how to set up table for company (already, they wrap the utensils in napkins, like its done in restaurants, and I didn’t have to teach them that, they just pick up good tips like that from watching).
Love this post, Olga! The pictures of little ones are awesome!
Great post Olga. I am spending a lot if time on your site just reading your receipes and tips.
Wow, how funny, I was just looking for ideas for cooking with kids. So this post is great. I have a nine year old son, and I started doing very simple cooking with him when he was maybe 4 or 5 years old. We started with very simple, few step/ few ingredient recipes (I.e. spread sauce, cheese and veggies on a pizza dough), especially when he was really young and had a non-existent attention span. We kept it up over the years, and I can see that not only his attention span for this is growing, but also his interest. Now he reads the ingredients for me and the step by step directions (working on his reading skills, working on following written instructions, working on understanding fractions and measurements). My suggestion is to tailor the cooking to each child’s attention span and taste buds. Don’t pick an elaborate recipe with exotic ingredients, just because you want to expose your child to it, if in your heart you know they will not be willing to stay through the activity or eat the final result. Keep it simple and quick in the beginning, with the final product being ready in a short amount of time. As they get older, give them more responsibilities and explore new things. Cooking is such a fun thing to do with kids, don’t make it into a chore.
Olga, I know I asked you for some kids recipes via e-mail, but I looked through a whole bunch of your recipes and I think my son and I will be able to tackle a few of them together!
Thanks for all your tips! I’m glad you were able to find some recipes to make with your son, Susanna. Enjoy.