asian family preparing food together

Cooking can be a lot of fun, but too many people don’t realize that kids can help out in the kitchen safely and help cook the family meals. When it comes to kids cooking, the main way to encourage them to try is to cook with them. Though safety does need to be a concern from the beginning, there are ways to help motivate kids to cook at home and to start teaching them the skills they’ll need to cook about anything they might want. 

Start When They’re Young With Pretend Cooking

If the kids are younger, start with pretend cooking. Use pretend foods and play in a pretend kitchen. Young toddlers love doing whatever their parents are doing, so they’ll enjoy mixing a bowl of water while someone cooks or using cookie cutters on playdough to make pretend cookies. These can be purchased online at AnnClarkCookieCutters.com and used for years, from pretend cooking to making amazing cookies everyone will love eating. 

Be prepared for pretend cooking to get messy. Younger kids may love to play with a bowl of spaghetti and practice their mixing skills while their parents are cooking. However, they’re going to eat a little bit, toss a little bit, and feed a little bit to the dog. Use a mat to help contain the mess or simply be prepared to clean once the cooking fun is done. Despite the mess, this is a great way to keep them busy while you’re cooking, and provide a sensory activity to help them learn gross and fine motor skills they’ll need throughout life. 

Add in Some Basic Cooking Skills As They Grow

Toddlers are able to start helping with the cooking process. They’re able to tear apart ingredients, mash bananas and potatoes, and help with mixing salads or other foods. Preschool-aged kids can use a safety knife to start helping with meal prep as well as start making foods using simple recipes. As kids grow, continue teaching them new cooking skills, encouraging them to cook new foods, and cooking with them to make sure they know what they’re doing in the kitchen. 

Have Fun When Creating Menus or New Foods

Normal foods like chicken and a couple of sides won’t be the most exciting menu for kids to try. Though the food may be delicious, they may want something a little more fun. Try silly menus, with made-up names for common foods the kids like, or create challenges to see who can come up with a fun menu, then make the foods for dinner. Fun menus and creativity go a long way towards getting kids not only involved in the process but ready and willing to help cook the family meals. This can also be a great way to encourage them to try new foods, as kids are more likely to try something if they make it themselves. 

Try Out Meal Kits

Meal kits aren’t just for adults. There are ones geared towards children that include new cooking tools, new skills for the kid to master, and fun foods to try out. Though caution is needed for any allergies, this can be a great way to encourage expanding cooking skills and trying new foods. Kids love getting mail, too, so this can encourage them to hop in the kitchen and try out cooking a little bit more. Depending on the child’s age, they may try the meal kit on their own or have a fun time working with their parent to learn the new skills and have fun cooking the whole family a delicious dinner. 

Use Colors and Shapes

The youngest kids are more likely to try foods if they’re colorful and fun. Plus, they’re going to enjoy playing with the ingredients and making the food. For young toddlers and preschoolers, try making rainbow spaghetti. This is fun to play with for pretend cooking or something fun preschoolers and elementary-age kids can help with cooking for a great meal. It’s incredibly easy to make, too. Just make the spaghetti, split it into separate containers, and color the spaghetti with food coloring. 

As the kids get older, they’re still going to enjoy fun meals. Though they may think they’ve outgrown rainbow spaghetti, there’s still fun to be had. Making pasta from scratch can be a lot of fun, and even more so when the kids can cut the pasta into whatever shapes they want and enjoy coloring the pasta to make fun patterns. Once the pasta dough is created, split it into smaller balls and use food coloring. Then, roll out the dough and make fun patterns with the colors or gently mix a few colors for a camouflage look. Cut into traditional shapes, or any kind of fun shape, then let dry to store the pasta or start cooking it for dinner. 

Watch and Learn From Cooking Shows or Classes

Watching cooking shows together can be a lot of fun, and it’s possible for everyone to learn new skills or recipes they may want to try. There’s always the fun cooking or baking competitions, as well, if any inspiration is needed for a fun competition at home. Cooking classes are another great way to learn together and improve skills. Today, they’re available in-person and online, so it’s easy to find one that fits a busy schedule or can be done at any time. 

Would you like to cook with your kids more or have them tackle dinner a night or two each week? Even toddlers can help with cooking and, even if your kids are older, there are plenty of ways to motivate them to start cooking more. Whether they’d enjoy fun pasta recipes or creating new recipes to try and learning new skills, use the tips here to make sure they’re in the kitchen and learning. Cooking provides tons of skills that will help them in the future beyond being able to feed themselves at home, so start helping them learn to love cooking today.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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