Do you love the idea of cooking with your young kids, but worry about all the mess? Do you feel like you don’t know where to start or how to do it safely? Vicky from Pasta and Play has written this great article with some great tips on where to start. You can find her on Instagram @pastaandplay Facebook or drop her an email
Cooking with kids made easy
Do you find yourself watching all these videos on Instagram of kids cooking pizza and baking cookies? You love the idea of cooking with kids and the videos are really entertaining. But all you can think of is the mess in your kitchen that YOU then have to clean up.
So, you wonder what’s the point of all the effort if you end up with a messy kitchen? But, if you put that to one side, there’s plenty of reasons why cooking with kids is great for both of you:
- It improves kids’ relationship with food and it lessens the chances of them becoming picky eaters later in life.
- It’s a great bonding experience and can create beautiful memories for kids and parents to share.
- It boosts their confidence in the kitchen and in life in general. They learn lots of skills like measuring, counting, the science behind baking and it’s good for developing fine motor skills and coordination too.
I’m an Italian cooking tutor and for years I’ve spread my passion for good and healthy food across London. I moved here 8 years ago and since then I’ve been feeding hundreds of people using the techniques learned from my grandmother.
I teach cooking classes in London for kids and organise the most amazing cooking birthday parties for little ones. The recipes I teach encourage healthy eating. They include unicorn pasta, rainbow bagels, colourful bread and pizza. Only fruit and vegetables are used to colour my recipes and I’m an advocate for a natural, low-sugar and wholesome diet.
Head over to our Instagram feed to see our meal plans, recipes videos with my little man cooking, easy to follow recipe cards and tips and tricks on how to cook with little kids. At the moment, I’m also working on a new project – a children’s illustrated book to engage kids eating more veggies It features my son and his little friends as superheroes.
I know many parents feel overwhelmed by the idea of involving kids in the kitchen. So, I’ve created a guide containing some simple steps on making cooking with kids a more enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are my secrets:
Kitchen set up
Organise the kitchen in a way that everything you need is in one place. That means you don’t have to move around the kitchen to find things. This will help to contain the mess into one corner of the kitchen. For example, for my setup: I have a kitchen island and I usually put my son’s highchair on one side, next to the stoves, so we don’t have to move from there. I put the back of the highchair against the kitchen so it is safe and doesn’t move. This also saved money as it meant I didn’t need to buy one of the helper towers. I’m sure they’re great, but I didn’t want to have another piece of kids furniture in my kitchen.
Start small. You don’t have to bake a multilayer cake or cook complicated recipes to get your kids involved. Start making a colourful salad and chop some veggies: peppers and mushrooms are ideal to start with because they are soft enough for them to cut through but not too mushy.
Another great idea that involves little mess is to make pizza toppings with tomato sauce, veggies, cheese and anything else you like. You can also make a simple cookie dough (300 gr flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 170g unsalted butter, softened, 150g granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, mix all the dry and wet ingredients separately and then mix together). Get the kids to cut the dough, form shapes and decorate with nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit.
There’s lots more recipe ideas over on our Instagram feed.
If you’re cooking with kids under the age of four, measure out all the ingredients. For over fours, let the kids measure the ingredients but have everything ready for them to use. This will make everything easier.
If you want to involve kids in more preparation, you can ask them to find ingredients around the kitchen, wash veggies and fruits or go shopping with them. Whilst you do the preparation, it’s nice if you can help them describe ingredients by commenting on their smells, looks, textures. This little trick will improve their relationship with veggies and fruit.
Give your kids clear instructions on how to do things, where to put things they don’t use, where to throw things away. Break every task into smaller steps. For example, if you need to cut a pepper, show how to remove the bottom and top part, remove the seeds, cut into strips, cut into little cubes, put the cubes in a bowl and discard the seeds and parts you don’t need.
Be ready for little disasters. Have kitchen clothes ready to wipe spills and teach your kids that every time they spill something, they can wipe it clean. Have rubbish bags to hand. Wearing an apron or old clothing means you don’t have to worry about damaging clothes.
Use keywords that you use only when you cook. We use words such as mix-mix, bash-bash and my kids know exactly what is coming next. You can also create your own secret words. This creates a connection in their brain with something they already know they should do, so when you see they are losing interest in cooking, you can use the keywords to recall their attention on the task.
Hopefully now you have an array of tricks to make cooking fun and relaxing for everyone.