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Let’s be honest here. Teaching kids to cook has so many benefits, but it can be incredibly stressful and messy!
Thankfully there are some key steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood of mess and stress on both you and the kids. I asked other moms who cook with their kids for their top tip on how to minimize both and here is what they had to share.
Tips for Reducing Stress and Mess When Teaching Kids To Cook
1. Make sure to clean the area they will be working at first
If you let them join in before clearing away clutter such as knives or glasses, you will end up more stressed trying to move things around while also monitoring your child!
To minimize mess, have a big bowl they can throw any trash, eggshells etc in while cooking and then dump out when finished.
2. If you’re doing it with more than 1 kid, make sure the amount of “help” each kid gives is equal
I always pick recipes where I can easily halve it so that each kid pours in flour & each kid can do the same amount of sugar, etc. It prevents fights which keeps me less stressed.
3. I found that working with one at a time made it a special time for both of us and reduced the stress to not have them all trying to do everything at once.
They just loved helping to make dinner and even choosing what to make.
As far as the mess, tell yourself that as they get more competent (and it will happen quickly), the stress and mess will get less and less.
4. I find it goes best when I can have the ingredients pre-measured and they’re helping with putting them all together.
Then I can focus on that rather than trying to juggle the prep and them.
5. The absolute best tip when teaching kids to cook is to just EXPECT the mess and enjoy it.
Think about the time you have together cooking for what it truly is–a way to build into and teach them truly life-changing skills.
There are of course all kinds of practical techniques that can help keep the mess to a minimum, but I have found that when I prepare my attitude, it makes all the difference.
The most important tip outside of that is to prepare with extra time and don’t plan your cooking time right before an important event–just in case something goes wrong
6. This may seem like a really simple trick, but I lay a towel onto the counter in the area where we will be working.
He doesn’t make a huge mess now, but when he was 2 and baking with me, it was like a flour explosion every time. That way, he can spill to his heart’s content, and we just toss the towel in the wash when we finish.
7. We eat a snack before we cook.
Sounds silly, but it helps the kids to not taste test everything and sneak food away, plus it helps them concentrate so that they can follow directions.
8. Prep on the floor!
Then all you need a broom to clean up and the kids are safer.
9. I think a large part of reducing stress when teaching kids to cook is letting go and allowing them to make messes and have fun.
Remember what it’s like to be a kid. There is nothing that can be done, that can’t be cleaned up (mostly!). I think sometimes it’s all about getting the parent out of the way!
10. When they are young, get them to help with stuff that is mainly weighing and mixing ingredients, such as a homemade meatloaf or oat bites.
Or try giving them a bunch of herbs in bowl with some kids’ scissors, get them to pull apart mushrooms with their hands for a pasta dish or mix flour and water for flatbread.
11. I love setting up build your own style food for kids when I’m cooking with more than one kid.
Build your own foil packets, tacos, pizza, soup bar with toppings, baked potatoes, even simple sandwiches or wraps. Kids really get excited by dreaming up different types of flavors and topping together and experiment a little too.
12. When teaching kids to cook, start small and build up to more difficult recipes and techniques and recipes.
For younger kids have them tear lettuce into smaller pieces and scrubbing veggies and work up to measuring and mixing and later chopping etc as they gain confidence.
And yes….expect some mess but know that the more involved they are now the more likely they are to cook and try new foods as they get older. Great payoff!!!
13. My grandmother talked to us about how fortunate we were to have an abundance of food right outside the back door.
She let the grandchildren “assist” with cooking and loved to use fresh ingredients right out of her garden to make meals. Cooking isn’t that stressful when you’re grateful for having plenty to eat and fresh ingredients. She loved that she had the time with her grand kids to pass her wisdom down
Hopefully these tips have inspired you to stop making excuses and start teaching your kids to cook. It really is a wonderful thing for both kids and parents, or grandparents, and is totally doable when you make the time and use some or all of these tips above.
If you’re ready to pick out a recipe to make see all of my cooking with kids recipes here plus read some of my top tips!