Why cook with children?
Cooking with your children is a great way to give them the skills and confidence to cook later in life. Time spent cooking is an enjoyable, engaging and creative activity and research shows it is an effective way of encouraging all children to try and eat a wider range of foods. Getting our children involved in preparing foods provides opportunities to learn about food, healthy eating and develop their learning in other areas such as maths, by learning to weigh out ingredients.
Tops tips for cooking with children
When cooking with your children the good news is you don’t have to be a master chef, as there are lots of easy, tasty, colourful and creative recipes to choose from that don’t require much equipment or even a heat source! Here are some of our top tips to help you feel prepared and confident when cooking with your children.
Consider the recipe: Choose a nutritious and delicious recipe which involves clear and simple cooking instructions suitable for your children’s abilities. Recipes which involve lots of mixing or chopping work well with young children. If you are involving your children in helping to prepare a bigger family meal, think about what they are capable of doing; they could help with washing foods, peeling foods or even placing them on trays or pan ready for cooking.
Ensure it’s nutritious as well as delicious: Consider if your recipe provides key nutrients and energy that they need for growing and playing. Choosing recipes which include softer fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, mushrooms, cucumbers or watermelon) can be a good starting point. Remember if you’re choosing a sweet recipe, make it kinder to teeth by eating your creation for pudding, as part of your family meal, instead of in between meals.
Have a plan: Check the recipe carefully and make a list of everything you need, including equipment. By planning ahead you can pick up all your cooking activity ingredients in your weekly shop to save you doing two trips. To make it easier, try having all your equipment and ingredients laid out in small bowls, so food is easily accessible for your children. This will mean you can avoid constantly going into your cupboards once you get started. When prepping ingredients consider chopping large food items into smaller pieces which are easier for small hands to hold.
Be shopping smart: Shopping top tip! Buy supermarket own brands. These are often a lot cheaper but still of good quality. These are often found on the top or bottom shelves rather than at eye level.
Factor in time and mess: Children are learning new cooking skills, so be patient, allow plenty of time to show them how to do it, simply enjoy watching their skills and confidence grow each time you cook together. You should always expect your cooking time to be longer when coking with children, although this depends on how many of your children are involved, their abilities and hands on support they need. Remember we want to encourage them to overcome dislikes and become familiar with new foods through tasting, smelling and allowing them to get messy, feeling new textures of foods as you go through your recipe.
Getting ready to cook: Teach your children good rules around food hygiene, ensuring they wash their hands before cooking. If your involving your child in chopping up raw fish or meat, ensure they wash their hands after handling and then move on to your next recipe step.
Keep it safe: Always make sure you supervise your children and have appropriate equipment such as child friendly knifes. Take extra caution with your children around hot items and ovens.
Involve learning: Ask your child questions such as what colour the food is, what is the name of this food, where does it grow, what shape is it, what does it smell like. Cooking can support children’s learning In many areas such as improving their communication and language by learning to describe how foods taste or by having more social interaction when you sit and eat your recipe together.
Make it fun: Children have great imaginations! Keep cooking fun by choosing colourful recipes that involve foods from their favourite books such as our Eat In with Early Start Snozzcumber Sandwich’s from the famous BFG story or by creating their favourite animals through foods such as our Bouncing Bunny Pancakes.
Eat In With Early Start Recipes
For more fun recipe ideas to support your child’s cooking skills, take a look at our Eat In With Early Start recipes. You could try our:
- Bouncing bunny pancakes
- BFG snozzcumber sandwiches
- Delicious Masala Frittata and Avocado salsa
- Healthy fruity scones
- Apple and pear porridge
- Pumpkin Cake
If you are an early years practitioner and have enjoyed reading through this blog you can find out more information on how to include more cooking and learning about food activities in your setting by booking our new online Cooking and Learning About Food training module