Kids in the Kitchen
Kids in the kitchen can look a few different ways, right? Often the thought of cooking with kids conjures up images of messy sticky hands, spilled milk, and flour over every surface. But it can actually be a fun, healthy, and involved learning experience.
As a child I grew up in a family that loved to cook. We were taught the basics from a young age and to this day, my brothers and I enjoy being in the kitchen preparing wholesome meals for our families.
Ingredients: Why cook with kids?
Now that I’m a mum it is important to me to have my own children learn how to nourish themselves and get involved in the kitchen. What surprises me is how often I have other parents ask how I handle the mess or keep it safe, many can’t think of anything worse than having little people help prepare dinner.
I think it is important to remember that getting in the kitchen isn’t just about sweet treats and licking the bowl, it really is about teaching and encouraging our babies to learn basic life skills, enjoy fresh wholefood, and improve their motor skills.
Kids Cooking Hacks
- Knife Skills I’m not suggesting handing a cleaver to a toddler, but when you’re chopping the vegetables for a stir fry, let them cut the soft ones with a bread and butter knife. Mushrooms are a great vegetable to start with, they’re easy to cut, and a great way to build motor skills and independence.
2. Some don’t like it hot
Keeping little people safe in the kitchen is hugely important. I don’t let small people use the stove, and when they’re with me in that area, I make sure to only use the back elements. It’s too easy for a small child to reach up and touch the stove, so when we only have the back burners going it reduces the risk of burns. Of course any session in the kitchen should begin with a chat about what is okay, and not okay, to touch.
3. Mess for Success
If mess is something that concerns you, then move outside. If it’s a nice day you can get some bowls and let the kids wash the veggies and get splashy! Or, if you need to stay indoors, there are lots of recipes that are lower on the mess-factor.
Kale chips are a great, simple choice for a clean cooking session. Ripping and scrunching up the kale is lots of fun for tiny hands, give them a bowl of water to wash them, then dry with a tea towel and spread evenly on a tray. A little spray of oil and a sprinkle with salt and it’s ready to go. Pop in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 175 degrees C. Keep a close eye on them until they have that crisp crunch. No mess! But lots of fun and such a great way to get superfoods into the family.
But whatever you choose to cook, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the moment. Talk, teach, laugh and get busy!
Try it out!
So let’s start with a simple meal… Kids all love pasta so how about trying a easy noodle dish to kick things off?
Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni
(Yes I know you’re thinking, ‘There is no way my child will eat this’, but trust me for a minute).
- Cannelloni shells
- 1 tub of ricotta
- Grated cheese
- 1 pack frozen spinach, thawed
- Pinch garlic
- 1 egg
- Salt & pepper
- Extra cheese for the top
Time to grab the troops! Set up a stool at the bench, hands washed, and aprons on (if you have kiddy ones).
Grab a big bowl and talk them through what goes next (I always start with the egg so if they end up with shell in the bowl I can scoop it out). You may be surprised how excited a child gets when they are allowed to crack the egg open themselves.
Let them add the ricotta, cheese, spinach, garlic to the bowl, and then at the end, a touch of salt and pepper. Let them mix it up and give them a teaspoon to get stuck into filling each shell.
I suggest you try not to show them how, let the motor skills come into action and they will find a way to get it done. It is always interesting watching them figure out firstly how to get the mix in and secondly how to stop it falling out the bottom. (yes it will be messy).
While they are busy doing this you can make a basic white sauce to pour over the top (or use freshly chopped tomatoes), either way, once all is done sprinkle with cheese and bake for 40 minutes in a moderate oven.
With praise for their efforts, fun had by all, and the ability to tell the family they made dinner, I can almost guarantee your little ones will devour this dish and ask to make it again. This is certainly a favourite for my three and four year old boys.
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