Having kids help in the kitchen is really messy. And for the first few attempt, make sure you are wearing airy clothing. Watching a 3-year-old learn to crack an egg will make you sweat. Ask them to use a whisk and you will be fanning yourself.
I’m making it sound more stressful than it really is. One step at a time and ONLY 15 minutes as a time. You can do it. Your kids can do it. And everyone will be so thankful you did.
Just like teaching toddlers to dress themselves, and watching a 7-year-old figure out how to properly load the dishwasher, it will take time, practice, patience, and plenty of laughter to see that first bit of success. When frustration hits a high, take a break. You will be fixing a meal again in a few hours and you can try again. Eggs are cheap and sugar is easy to sweep up.
Just keep at it.
Let's talk about my “must-haves” for including your little ones in the kitchen. I have shared links below where you can find some of these items. *they are affiliate links but be assured that I buy these for myself and use them all. I would never suggest something that is not a product that I use in my own home*
- Glass measuring cups for liquids. I know you are thinking…..” glass? are you nuts?!” These liquid measuring cups are heavier and don’t tip over easily and they create a nice sturdy place to practice stirring small amounts, they have a handle for pouring, and nice and round for little ones to grab with both hands.
- A heavy dining room chair. I know that there are products you can buy to have in the kitchen that works as a stool to pull up to the counter with safety sides and such. I’m all about simplicity and a dining room chair is what I have on hand. Now, if you have lightweight or chairs that fold or tip easily, consider using something more sturdy for a wiggly toddler. When they lean and reach for things, they shift their entire body weight so it’s important to not have a chair or stool that will tip. You want them standing at the counter with you…..its really difficult to help when they are sitting. Put grips on the bottom of the chair legs so that it won't scoot and slide. If your little one is not yet walking confidently, strap them in their high chair and pull them up beside you to play with utensils and such at their tray.
- Towels (paper or cloth) right at hand…..and lots of them. Spills happen quickly and frequently and it shouldn't be a big deal at all. Hand your child a paper towel and they can help wipe up with you.
As soon as your child can sit in a high chair with good head control and hand control, bring them to the kitchen to help you. Hand them a wooden spoon, a small plastic measuring cup, and a wet washrag. They will have fun playing and you can talk to them while you cook and bake.
At about 18 months, kids will love to stand beside you and stir with your hand helping them. They can also pour dry ingredients in and help you scoop flour and sugar.
At age 3, I like to buy a dozen eggs and set up a station to practice cracking eggs. Don’t try to teach this task while baking or cooking. Do it as a separate activity. Just a fun 20 minutes of cracking an egg into a glass measuring cup and placing the shells in a bowl.
At about age 7 or so, they can read confidently enough to read through a recipe. Just keep adding tasks here and there as you cook. And before you know it, they will be making a birthday cake for a sibling all on their own with just supervision.
The important thing is to only have them help with one task per recipe and then send them on to do something else. Or I let my girls move to the other side of the counter to watch. When you are all beginning, they cannot help with every single task in a recipe or for more than about 15 minutes at a time. You don't want too much frustration.
Learn slowly and learn together. Choose a recipe that you are confident with and on a day that you aren't in too much of a rush. Try pancakes on a Saturday morning. Make muffins for Sunday Brunch. Surprise them with cupcakes Friday after school.
So, let's review. Make sure you have a few essentials on hand that make it easy for kids to help. And keep in mind that you will only want to give them one task per recipe to help with. They won’t be able to independently complete a task yet. Keep at it, and little by little you and your kiddos will get in your groove.
Enjoy your time together!
(photos credit: Loneman Photography)