Cooking with kiddos

Some of my very favorite kids came over to play yesterday — a nine year old boy and five year old twin girls. The girls’ favorite game at my house is, “Hey can we make… (pause while scanning inventory of my pantry… mini cupcake liners spotted) CUPCAKES??”

I love having kids in the kitchen! I say the earlier they learn a love of cooking the better. And kids are more likely to eat food that they helped prepare; any tools you can use to increase kids’ food variety are great. So we baked! Alas, not a lot of pictures, because there were actually four kids (2, 5, 5, and 9) in my kitchen at the time and I didn’t have a second to stop and take pictures.  I did have time, however, to think of a few tips for cooking with kids:

First, of course, safety. Use common sense. If it might be dangerous, do it yourself. No knives, ovens, burners or food processors for kids, and use extreme caution with any electrics, like the stand mixer.

Second, and the kids would say this is the most important, you have to be FAIR! Nothing like the whine of, “No faaaaiiiiirrrrrr!” to put a damper on things. We needed to sift two cups of flour yesterday, so A sifted while L dumped in the first cup of flour, then they switched. And in switching, of course, about 1/2 cup flour ended up on the floor, but no biggie.

No job is too little to be entertaining. I filled up the measuring cups with ingredients and handed them off, and the kids dumped from the cup into the mixing bowl. They felt this was a terribly important job, and I loved it.

The kitchen is a great place to work in a little math, too. While they were putting liners in the mini muffin tins we talked about how many they had filled, and how many they’d need to finish the pan.

Kids are surprisingly willing to help clean up during cooking. Picking up toys? Lame. Sweeping up sugar? No problem! Put ’em to work! It’s a good lesson to learn that it’s part of the deal to clean up after yourself.

And the best part for last: when you need them occupied long enough to know you can safely open the oven? Time to lick the bowl!

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