I love cooking with my boys! For my family, it is time together where we can have fun and be creative. While tiny humans in the kitchen may feel like the last thing you want when you’re trying to prepare a meal, the truth is that it’s actually easier (and, yes, less messy!) than you might think. Here are some common myths debunked about cooking with your kids—and tips for working cooking lessons into your homeschool.
Myth #1: It is so messy.
Yes, it can be more messy. However, this is a wonderful way to include them in not only the cooking but the clean up as well! A great way to do that is to give them a workspace that is easily cleaned, preferably one right next to the sink. That way they can easily brush their mess into the sink or put their utensils right in without walking around the kitchen with a spatula dripping in cake batter. (Hypothetically.) It’s also a great place for them to have easy access to wash their hands before and after cooking.
Myth #2: It will take longer.
Here’s how you counteract this one: Think small. My kids are certainly not involved in every step of the cooking process, or we would likely be there all night. I give them a simple task that will take some concentration (some examples include: dumping pre-measured ingredients into a bowl, mixing together a marinade with a whisk, keeping an eye on the blender while it whirls up a smoothie, or washing produce in a colander), and while they do that, it allows me to tackle the more complicated tasks without distraction. P.S. Do not underestimate the amount of time a toddler can be entertained by whisking ingredients in a bowl!
Myth #3: They will mess it up, and I will have to start over.
The simple truth is, if you are giving your child small tasks, they can usually only lead to small (and easy-to-correct) mistakes. For example, if they add too much salt or sugar, you can usually counterbalance or simply scoop it out. (Bonus: You’re also teaching them problem solving and resilience when this happens!) A simple way I try to mitigate these mistakes is by pre-measuring ingredients, especially for something like baking that can be a bit more delicate. This way, all they have to do is dump them in the bowl—instead of counting on them to remember how many scoops of flour they have already added.
Myth #4: Children will get in the way.
This is simply solved with a little organization. To give us all a little elbow room, I give my boys their own space and set up just like mine with their own little cutting board and tools. It’s close to me so I can monitor what they are doing, but they love to have their own “work station” when they help in the kitchen. Plus, it keeps their little fingers off my cutting board while I’m chopping and keeps them far enough away from the stove and any hot items while we work.
Myth #5: It’s not safe.
Speaking of cutting boards and hot items. Yes, working with kids in the kitchen can be dangerous. But there are teaching moments here! We start all our cooking sessions with me explaining that knives are sharp and the stove is hot. I communicate with them as we are cooking, telling them, “Mommy is turning on the stove now, this pan will be hot” or “I am going to use this knife now—it is very sharp, do not touch it.” I also swear by these Tot Towers—they keep little ones contained and at counter height so I don’t have to worry about them slipping off of a chair or reaching up onto the counter and pulling down something dangerous. Plus, with a stool like this, your child gets a front row seat to the magic we are making together in the kitchen.
Planning to buy a Tot Tower? You can get free engraving on yours by purchasing one at the engraving price and then putting “FREE ENGRAVING #Learn&Live” in your note to seller. They’ll then refund you the cost of engraving. Bon Appetit!