We all know that cooking with our children has oodles of benefits. Even from an early age the learning about mathematics through measuring weight, time and temperature, the life long learning about health, nutrition and food hygiene, not-to-mention actually learning the art of how to cook is invaluable….yadda yadda yadda, we know all that!
But if you have the patience of a 90 year old man with high blood pressure and hemorrhoids just having the kids set foot in the kitchen when you’re cooking has the potential to send you into a hysterical frenzy of kid-contamination-prevention.
Having spent many hours cooking with my kids (and having many more ahead of us) I’ve put together a few survival tips to help make the experience of cooking with your precious bundle of joy a positive one instead of feeling like you need to down a bottle of vodka to recover from it!
Start with a dirty house
Cooking with rug rats isn’t the tidiest of activities, so for God’s sake don’t bother cleaning the floors, benches, walls, cupboards etc in the moments just prior to cooking because you’re just wasting your bloody time! Save the Dyson-dance for a post-cook activity!
Kids often have the patience and concentration span of pit-bull crossed with a gold fish; they generally just want to just get to the good bits i.e. mixing, pouring and licking uncooked ingredients from moving electric appliances. So if you’re planning on cooking with the kidlets, it makes life a little easier if you pre-prepare and have the ingredients and utensils sitting on the bench, ready to go so you’re not wasting time looking for things mid-cook.
Take a deep breath
Cooking with kids takes patience, patience and a whole lot of patience, particularly if they’re only little. If you’re feeling a little wired, tired or just plain cranky then it might be worth cooking without help from any ‘little people’ until you have the mental and physical capacity that comes with the potential chaos that ensues. If they won’t take no for an answer, I find bribery/distraction with beater-licking always useful (although it’s helpful if there’s batter on it at the time ;-)).
Focus on what they can do not what they can’t
It’s really important to set boundaries when you’re cooking with kids in the kitchen especially if you’re working with hot things or electric appliances like beaters etc. But rather than giving them a barrage of ‘no’s’ and ‘don’t touch that’s', it might be worthwhile giving them a constructive job in the kitchen they can do (see I did learn something from positive parenting). Sure they might not be able to stir the ingredients in a pot over a stove but they might be able to help you chop the ingredients and put them into the pot etc.
Get them their own stuff
Be it plastic spatulas, wooden spoons or mixing bowls from cheapo shops, getting your little chef apprentices their own kitchen utensils is a great way of getting them involved in the cooking without you having to play tug-a-war with your own rolling pin.
It’s also not a bad idea to get them their own little knife that they can safely use and handle in the kitchen. There’s nothing that’s going to press their ‘whinge button’ more than seeing you use sharp implements whilst cooking and they can’t. Whilst it might be tempting to just let them have a crack at chopping veggies with a carving knife just to keep the peace, the resulting blood spatter will create for more noise, more mess and an inedible meal.
You’d be surprised how much a kid can cut with a plastic picnic knife (not the disposable ones). Alternatively there’s a few kids’ knives on the market like the Kiddi Kutter that will actually cut stuff but not their little fingers. They can really get involved and feel grown up without you worrying about them putting blood in your fruit salad!
(And no this isn’t a sponsored post, that’s just a product that we use and like)
Engage the blind eye
Did I happen to mention that cooking with kids has the potential to be messy and not necessarily follow any semblance of well-laid out plans?
Kids generally love nothing better than to get their hands into EVERYTHING when they’re cooking so it’s worth just letting your cookies get a little wonky, your pastry get a little lumpy and your cakes a little…….well you get the idea. Turn a blind eye towards the mess AND the ‘special’ outcomes that result from having a little helper and you’re more likely to find the experience a whole lot more enjoyable.
Look at the bright side, if you’re cooking with the kids from time-to-time you can always blame them for any dodgy bickies and cakes that you pull out of the oven ;-). What?
Cooking with kids has the potential to leave even the most relaxed parent running for a red wine-Zoloft cocktail. But with a little planning, some relaxation therapy and a decent dirt build-up on your kitchen floor the whole experience can be a positive one for all…….and you might end up with a decent batch of cookies at the end….
Do you have any tips for surviving a cook-off with the kids?
5. Encourage, en