Here are some ideas for making cooking fun and educational for young kids, based on my experience so far. I like to think that getting my son Freddy in to cooking young will make him a great catch when he is older..! And maybe he can make me breakfast in a few years.
– Get your child involved in the whole process, from the shopping list (using photos or drawings if your child cannot read yet), to finding ingredients in the shop and making the food. They can feel proud as they tick items off the shopping list.
– Invest in a cheap apron and chef hat for you and your child so you both look the part. Or if you have the energy, make and decorate a hat together using cardboard or an old newspaper. Amazon do really cheap aprons and hats.
– Prepare as much as possible before you start cooking. If I am making muffins with Freddy I put all the ingredients seperately in bowls before he sits down so I am not faffing about. He has a short attention span and often pouring ingredients in to a bowl and stirring it a few times is enough for him.
– Encourage your child to help choose ingredients for your dish e.g. ‘What would be nice to have on pizza?’
– ‘Cooking’ can be as simple as you like. Great first skills are pouring (e.g. flour in to a mixing bowl); stirring; sprinkling (e.g. raisons in to fruit salad or decorations on to a cupcake), shaking (e.g. herbs on top of pizza); putting mixtures in to tins or cupcake cases; spreading with a knife or spoon (e.g. tomato puree on pizza/houmous on rice cakes); squeezing (e.g. honey in to yoghurt); mashing (e.g. bananas) and cutting up soft food (especially soft fruit – tinned apricot pieces are great for this!). The Early Learning Centre has cooking utensils for kids.
– Easy things to try are muffins, banana bread, cookies using cookie cutters, pizza, wraps and fruit salad. For pizza, use pitta bread as a base, cover with tomato puree, tinned chopped tomatoes, grated cheese and whatever else you and your child fancy, then bake for approx 10 mins at 190 degrees/gas mark 5.
– Liven up simple acts e.g. saying ‘abracadabra’ when sprinkling on ingredients, or seeing how fast you can stir!
– Talk about the different ingredients, encouraging your child to smell and taste. Freddy would not be up for the occasional bit of cooking if I didn’t let him eat as we go. Help your child understand the ingredients and processes e.g. baking powder makes things bigger/the oven cooks things. Growing cress and making sandwiches is a cheap, great way of teaching kids where food comes from. See this previous post for more info: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/food-with-kids-growing-cress-then-making-sandwiches-8/.
– Take before and after photos so you can look back and talk about what you made.
– Give what you and your child make as presents sometimes. It makes them feel proud and gets them used to sharing (not a skill young children are known for)!
– And finally check out the ‘cooking with kids’ category on the right hand side of my blog for further ideas!