Kids in the Kitchen
What can a kid do in the kitchen? Plenty! Besides actually being helpful, (at times,) kitchen activities keep kids busy, increase their enthusiasm for good food, help them learn arithmetic through measuring and adjusting recipes, increase their awareness of where food comes from, and help them care about nature and the earth.
That is Elena Koether’s story. She is a mom who includes her kids in making food starting in the garden. She and her daughter Harper (age 4) and son Hendrix(age 3) “absolutely love cooking.” They plant and harvest veggies from their tower garden, choose recipes, and grocery shop together. Favorite foods they make include energy bits, chickpea salad, smoothies, butternut squash Mac and cheese, avocado toast, and tacos. Elena notes “Cooking has been a huge part of my life since I was little cooking with my mother and my grandmother.” Now growing and preparing their food is a huge, happy part of life with her children.
Of course, not all kids want to take part in making food, and many parents don’t find the time to help them learn kitchen skills. But for those who do, the benefits grow over the years, along with the children.
A case in point is Dr. Errika Walker-Magra’s family. She informed me that her daughters, Siloam,age twelve, and Shadai, age ten, grew up naturally in the kitchen. They rolled gnocchi with their father, who is a chef, from the time they were very little. Cooking has helped teach them math through measuring and changing amounts in recipes. It has also made them aware of how healthy eating promotes their health, as well as the well-being of animals and the environment. They have been plant-based for over two years. They are now capable enough to chop, peel, prep, and cook meals and snacks, so their mom only does some supervision. They have used the blender, air fryer, and pressure cooker, Their increasing abilities benefit them and and their parents as well. The picture below shows one of the daughters making vegan pretzels.
Some kids need to be encouraged to take part in making food. Others jump right in. My five-year-old grandson Malcolm took an interest in making food since he could toddle. He particularly likes stirring bowls of ingredients with his whisk, and he helps assemble ingredients. The picture below is of him cutting cucumbers for salad. He and his nine-year-old brother also cut up tomatoes for pesto. He uses a special safety knife made for children, which his parents judged him ready to use when he became five. He told me “Mommy tries to help me,” and he is okay with that, but he has plans to do more himself (when his parents allow it.) His cooking credits thus far include making (with some help) muffins, salads, mac ‘n cheese, and bruschetta.
As for the messy part, if you have survived your child’s or grandchild’s toddler years, you are equipped to manage some spilled ingredients. Besides, learning to clean up is part of learning to cook, so involve your young cook in that too. And even if the food you made together isn’t picture perfect, it is likely to be gobbled up anyway. You can't lose!
p.s. If you are curious about some of my snacks for kids suggestions, take a look at my Snacks for Growing Strong book shown in the book section of this website.