One of the best ways to get your kids to eat healthy now and throughout their lives is to teach them how to cook healthy meals.
My kids have been helping me in the kitchen since they were toddlers and we all have a lot of fun cooking and baking together.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I’ve got the cooking chops of Martha Stewart and my kids are little chefs who follow suite, however.
Not even close.
Most of the time when we cook together, I try to strike a balance between teaching and keeping them busy and avoiding messes, mishaps and meltdowns.
Last week, I even let my 5-year-old use a vegetable peeler and pairing knife to prepare carrots for a large family dinner.
I nearly had a heart attack worrying that she might lose a finger, but I showed her how to cut away from her fingers and I watched carefully.
Benefits of Cooking With Kids
When kids learn how to cook, it’s an invaluable—and one might argue—essential life skill.
Cooking improves their literacy, critical thinking and fine motor skills.
Studies show people who cook at home eat healthier, eat less, and have better control of their weight, so it’s also a healthy habit to teach now.
Need more reasons? Check out 5 Surprising Benefits of Cooking With Your Kids.
Tips To Teach Kids How To Cook
Cooking with your kids can be a fun, valuable activity for the whole family. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it.
1. Review the safety rules
Before you can teach your kids how to chop vegetables, sauté garlic and beat eggs, they’ll need to learn some food and kitchen safety rules.
Make sure they wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before prepping food and after handling raw meat, poultry and fish.
Teach them to avoid eating uncooked food (licking the spatula counts!) and putting their hands in their mouth.
Lastly, teach your kids to be careful around knives and kitchen appliances with sharp blades, use caution around a hot stove and oven, use oven mitts and how to hold a pot handle.
2. Keep it age appropriate
When teaching your kids how to cook, think about their age and maturity level.
Three to 5-year-olds can help pour and mix, turn on the food processor, wash produce and add seasonings, while older kids can break eggs, peel and chop vegetables, measure ingredients, read recipes, stir food on the stovetop and put food in the oven.
3. Let them choose
When kids feel empowered to make their own food choices, they’re more likely to eat healthy.
When you’re not in a rush to get dinner on the table and you have time to experiment, let your kids pick out a new recipe or decide on the type of meal they’d like to make.
Make a list of ingredients and go grocery shopping together, which teaches them all the steps that are required to pull a meal together.
4. Make it more fun
Professional chefs are creative, know how to experiment, and problem solve in the kitchen—skills you can teach your kids no matter how inexperienced you think you are.
Try new recipes, swap an ingredient, substitute a spice or change the cooking method. Your kids may surprise you with new ideas too.
5. Clean up together
Teaching kids how to properly clean the kitchen is just as important as teaching them how to cook.
Little kids can (gently!) put bowls and cooking utensils in the sink, while older kids can load the dishwasher, wash and dry pots and pans and clean and disinfect cutting boards and countertops.
6. Get some cool gear
You can make cooking even more fun but buying your kids their own aprons, kid-sized cutting boards and utensils or a colorful stool to reach the counter.
7. Spread the joy
Cooking will bring your family together but it’s also a good opportunity to teach your kids about contributing to a family meal and helping others.
Let them help you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, bake treats for the school fundraiser or cook a meal for a friend in need.
They’ll feel so proud that they had a hand in making the meal and making others happy. Of course, the memories you’ll make will be priceless.
8. Let it go
Cooking with your kids will definitely take longer than when you cook alone and you’re guaranteed a mess afterwards.
I’ll admit, this is a #momfail for me. I like to clean the kitchen as I go, and when something spills, I sigh.
When I relax however, and don’t make a big deal when soup splatters or some flour spills on the floor, it’s a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.