My oldest son Micah is 4 and has been helping me in the kitchen ever since he could stand up on a chair and could communicate with me a little bit. It first started when I would have the hardest time killing the 2 hours after nap time and before Mark came home from work at 5:00 pm.
To help the time pass a little quicker, I would often get Micah to help me make something in the kitchen and it became part of our routine.
The most common comments I get about kids helping in the kitchen is how STRESSFUL it can be. Yes – it can be…. but I have found that after implementing these tips over the years, that it can get easier and it can be very fun. Some times work out better than others. Some end in tears (from me as well…) and some work out really well. Give yourself room to learn and grow in this area! The involvement helps them feel excited, special, and invested in the food they are eating.
6 Tips for Kids Helping in the Kitchen:
1) Find some SIMPLE recipes
Especially when you are first starting out with having your kids help, you want to find recipe that are EASY to make and don’t require much concentration. I suggest picking a recipe that you have made before and are familiar with. That way, when there is extra interrupting and chaos, it doesn’t bug you so much or throw you off course.
Here are some of our favourite go-to recipes:
Pancakes are SO simple and are always a WIN
* You can use your favourite recipe or try this one!
Banana Pancakes (Gluten/Dairy Free).
*I make these for my little guy Aiden who just turned 1. Micah also loves these ones.
*I often add a TBS or two of coconut sugar to this recipe (or use any type of sugar)
#2) Set Clear Expectations
Kids get REALLY excited when the are helping and can get a little ahead of themselves and start making a mess right from the get-go. Also, if your child(ren) have never helped before, they will have a harder time knowing what to do, and might get really excited and want to get into things.
Before we get started, I always talk Micah through what we are making, what jobs he will get to help with, and what he will get to eat + taste throughout. Kids can get really excited when they are helping so I have found this helpful for him to know what to expect.
I love to use phrases like:
- “I will show you first how to add this, then you can add the next thing!”
- “If it isn’t working and you are having too hard of a time listening, you will have to get down and try again another time.”
- “When it’s time to add the chocolate chips, you can taste a few!”
- “After we are finished mixing, then you can lick the spoon and the bowl.” **(If you are comfortable with that!)
- “When the recipe is finished, you can eat one after supper.”
This can be a bit tricky if your child is a bit too young to understand. BUT it still is a helpful thing to communicate clearly to kids!
#3) Prepare Your Space & Ingredients
Get the space cleared and cleaned up before you even get started. Next, get all of the ingredients you need pulled out so you don’t have to be running around looking for things and worrying about your little person getting into anything they shouldn’t be and causing more of a mess!
If your kids are very small, if they are new to helping you in the kitchen, or you have more than one child helping you, you could even consider measuring out every ingredient before hand and then calling them to come help you when everything is ready.
When Micah was really small, I would prepare the ingredients needed for the recipe while he was napping so when we wanted to make the recipe it was all ready to go and I didn’t have to worry about entertaining a grouchy or needy toddler while I was getting ready.
I don’t just let him help all the time because that would drive me nuts. I pick strategic times and recipe to get him to help me with and try and plan those things in advance.
#4) Mentally Prepare Yourself for some Mess & Mistakes
What I have found helpful is preparing myself that things could get a bit messy! I also come prepared that they might (actually, most likely) will make a mistake.
Please don’t plan to make a “perfect recipe” for a special birthday or something important if they are helping in case something goes wrong and it makes you feel annoyed. Work on those recipes on your own and just ask your kids to help you with fun + extra snacks and recipes. That way if they look or taste….. interesting….. it doesn’t have to bug you 🙂
If Micah spills something, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I use that opportunity to explain how we need to be aware of what we are doing and focus on what’s next. I tell him that I also spill sometimes, and explain that I need to pay attention and try and be more careful. If something happened that specifically caused the spill, we could talk about what we could do differently next time.
IMPORTANT: If he doesn’t seem interested or he is very distracted, I ask him if he wants to get down and try again another time!
#5) Use this Opportunity to Provoke Confidence!
Micah takes helping so seriously and loves being my helper. I know it helps him feel proud and special that he gets to do the job with me.
I love to use encouraging phrases like:
- “You are such a great helper.”
- “I LOVE when you help me.”
- “This is so much fun!”
- “Wow! I noticed you were trying to be so careful when you poured that milk in the bowl.”
- “I can’t believe how big and smart you are! You are doing an amazing job”
The truth is, it might not actually be that fun for you and they might not actually be very careful. But they don’t need to know that :). Using encouraging and thoughtful words will make them feel empowered and important.
#6) Talk Through What You Are Doing
Talk about the ingredients you are using and what they taste like, what their purpose is, etc. It might help them feel more interested in trying something new!
Walk them through exactly what you are doing so they learn new language and skills, especially when they are younger.
- “I am pouring the milk into the bowl.”
- “We need to add 2 eggs. I already added 1 egg, so we need to add 1 more to get to 2.”
- “Let’s add baking soda to this recipe because it helps it rise.”
- “We need to put salt in the bowl. Can you show me which one is the salt?”
BONUS TIP – YOU don’t have to love it!
Some people just hate being in the kitchen and you don’t have to compare yourself with anyone else! You don’t need to feel bad for not loving having your kids help you. You don’t have to enjoy the whole process! When you choose to involve them once and while and get them to help you, it can be so much fun for them. Just involving them will excite them and help them feel useful and super proud. It can also be a good way to connect with your kids by mixing things up and trying something different!
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