Time to get your kids in the kitchen. Cooking is great for fine motor skills as well as being a sneaky introduction to maths, science and literacy. It also helps them understand the all important balanced diet later in life.
Use packet mixes
If you are not too confident in the kitchen do not feel bad about using the occasional packet mix. Cooking is not just about ingredients, it is also about learning the skills needed in cookery: the whisking, the beating, the stirring. All of these can be done with a packet mix. It is worth having a packet in the cupboard for those days when you are housebound with minimal ingredients.
Get them involved
Let them help out in the kitchen as early as possible. This does not have to mean them finely dicing carrots; it could be them just playing with some of the spare ingredients. Younger children love playing with the different textures of food. Give them bowls of different ingredients and let them explore while you are preparing dinner. Children learn by doing and watching and you’ll be surprised how many skills they pick up this way. Children who have helped in the cookery process are also more likely to try new foods. My Daddy Cooks author, and dad of two, Nick Coffer highly recommends using Little Helper Fun Pod in the kitchen to help your child stand safely at counter height.
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Unless your children are very young it’s best to avoid the cookery kits aimed at kids. More often than not the equipment is useless and rarely produces anything close to edible. Do, however, use equipment that won’t get broken easily: plastic bowls, wooden spoons, wooden rolling pins and plastic cookie cutters. Even consider silicone cupcake moulds. These are great for baking a small batch of cakes as well as making mini omelettes or jelly. To stop the plastic bowl or chopping board moving around when being used place a damp dishcloth or towel under it.
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Teach basic knife skills
Of course you want your child to want to use a knife properly but young children do not have to use sharp knives in the kitchen at the beginning. Think about how else the food could be prepared. Many serrated dinner knives will cut tomatoes, scissors are great for spring onions and how about an egg slicer to cut strawberries? You can also use a fork to help stabilise the food and keep fingers at a safe distance while cutting. Look at using an apple divider (Lakeland, £7). Not only is it great to cut and core fruit, but also to chop potatoes. When teaching a child to use a sharp knife stick to the bridge and claw methods.
Embrace the mess
I never said this was going to mess free. Cooking is about exploring smells, sights, texture and even noise. You cannot do this without getting a bit messy. Embrace it. It is the mess that most children like about cooking and, what is even better, they get to eat what they have made at the end.
Here’s some great websites to get you started on recipes suitable for kids:
- Children’s Food Trust on Pinterest
- Let’s Get Cooking
- Grain Chain
- CBeebies — I Can Cook
- My Daddy Cooks