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6 Mom-tested tips to teach your kids to cook

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Cooking tips for kids

Getting your kids excited about being in the kitchen at a young age near guarantees that they will grow up to be adults who not only know how to cook for themselves but also grown ups who love and appreciate home cooked meals. Here are some mom-tested tips to teach your kids how to cook - and have fun doing it.

Baking Cookies with the Family

Cooking tip #1: Feed their interest

Remember when you were a kid and adamantly disliked something because your parents forced it down your throat? The best way to make cooking an intrigue for your kiddos is enticing them, rather than coercing them into the kitchen.

"When your kids show interest in something you are doing in the kitchen, involve them – let them stir a batter or break the eggs," says Sally G. from Kerman, California, mother and grandmother who has passed down the appreciation of cooking to her kids, grandkids and even great grandkids. "If your kids aren't that interested, don't push them. Simply make whatever you are doing fun – sing a song or dance while you're preparing ingredients – and don't show any disappointment that they aren't that into it. They'll come around."

Cooking tip #2: Set them up to feel accomplished

There is nothing more crushing to a child than having a respected adult tell them they've "messed it up." Mom Nancy P. from San Francisco, California, explains, "Be ready to let your kids make mistakes – don't try to correct their every move. Nobody likes someone hovering waiting to point out what's wrong. Unless they're in danger of completely ruining the meal, let them measure a little less than perfectly, grease the pan somewhat incompletely, and stir a bit too much. Even making mistakes will help them learn."

Sally G. agrees. "Praise what your kids have done and give them tips to hone their skills without making them feel like they have failed. For example, if pieces of shell are in their bowl of eggs, tell them what a good job they did, pick the pieces of shell out, give them a tip and then make a game of having them break a few more eggs with no shells ending up in the bowl."

Cooking tip #3: Expect a mess – and cherished memories

When it comes to kids in the kitchen, there are very few "neat" outcomes – but that is part of the fond memories you will cherish for years to come. New York-based mom Amanda R. says, "My 5-year-old daughter and I cook together a lot. One of our first joint recipes was chocolate chip cookies. I let her try everything. Cooking is inherently messy so if she spilled or got egg shells in the dough, I just rolled with it."

Marj D., a mom from Colorado, recalls a first cookie baking experience with her youngest daughter. "I was trying to show her how to use a sifter for flour. I had a small one for her to use and it was the type that you squeeze and release the handle. She not only had flour everywhere because she had a hard time squeezing, but she also had her tongue sticking out to the side of her mouth, chewing on it in time with her squeezes of the sifter."

Cooking tip #4: Give recipes or meals a theme

Making meals or particular dishes significant on a kid level will get their interest. Betty G., mom and grandmom from Fresno, California explains, "Every kid loves to make and decorate cookies and cupcakes. Use holiday themed candies and icing, like candy corn for Halloween and candy hearts for Valentine's Day. Another idea – especially for boys – is decorating ideas for things they like to do, like sports. Teach them how to make cupcakes or cookies that look like a baseball or another sports ball."

Cooking tip #5: Let them plan meals

Marj D. suggests getting them involved in the planning. She says, "Let them help plan a meal. Give them a couple things to choose from for the entree and for the sides. You can explain to them how and why to choose (colors, nutrient components, etc) as they get older and more into the cooking tasks. Montana-based mom and grandma Patti H. adds, "When my boys got older, they would each have their night to cook – they'd make mac and cheese or something like that."

Cooking tip #6: Remember it's not about a perfect meal

Mom Gayle T. views cooking with her kids as quality family time. Just recently she asked her daughter to help her bake and her daughter readily agreed. Gayle fondly explains, "The two of us went on to have a blast in the kitchen. We laughed and tasted and had the most fun we'd had together – just the two of us – in a long time."

Marj D. concurs and adds "Do not 'expect' any kind of result and make sure that you have plenty of time to spend to do the cooking task so that you do not have to hurry them or take over for them (that could make them feel like they have failed)." Gayle T. concludes, "It isn't so much about the end product as it is the process." Enjoy your time in the kitchen with the kiddos and they will enjoy being in the kitchen, too.

More tips for teaching your kids to cook

Teach kids safe cooking from the start
Teach your kids how to read food labels
Kid-friendly recipes

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