Keeping the kids out of the kitchen makes supper prep go faster, it keeps the messes under control and there aren’t as many accidents. But it is a disservice to your children because you aren’t equipping them with essential life skills. Take these three simple steps to get your kids helping in the kitchen.
As a kid, my mom was always having us children help in the kitchen. Whether it was setting the table, drying silverware, chopping veggies or standing on a chair stirring the soup, there was something for us to do at all ages. I include some extra ideas for how to get your kids helping in the kitchen in my free cheat sheet at the bottom of this post!
How to Get Kids Helping in the Kitchen
Letting kids know from a young age that they are (usually) welcome in the kitchen will give them confidence and knowledge to be more self-sufficient later on. Read more in my post 5 Homemaking Skills Your Son Should Know Before Leaving Home.
One important thing to remember is your reactions and your family’s reactions. Keeping your cool when cookie batter slips to the floor is essential. Remember, your attitude is the one thing that will make you the best homemaker.
Steering other family members away from harsh remarks will help with building confidence in the kitchen. Most of the time your kid will know when they made a mistake or a gross tasting food – nobody has to rub it in or high light it.
1. Let Your Kids Watch
If your kids are young, this is a great way to get them involved in the kitchen.
Since my little guy was old enough to sit in his high chair, I’d put him in it and pull it over by the counter I’m working and let him watch. I give hime the measuring spoon after I’ve dipped it in salt, cocoa or vanilla.
At almost two, my son still loves watching from his high chair as long as I keep dipping his measuring spoon back into the cocoa! This is all part of working with a toddler in the home.
If I’m working on food for our family that doesn’t involve knives and the such, I just set my boy on the counter and let him get his hands in to help whenever he wants. Sometimes he just sits and licks bacon grease off his fingers, other times he helps pat out the pizza dough.
Sometimes you don’t have the time to involve your kids while you are working in the kitchen. For times like this, keep a designated cupboard or low drawer with things your kids can play with. Things like plastic bowls, wooden spoons and canned goods will give your children a place to play while you work.
2. Let Your Kids Help
You may sigh and brace yourself for this idea but it really doesn’t have to be that bad! Letting your kids help can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
My almost two-year old “helps” with setting the table. I give him one eating utensil at a time and tell him who’s place to put it at. It’s not pretty. It’s not always right. But the silverware ends up on the table and we’ve never had to eat with our fingers! This task is something simple that I don’t have to oversee and he can’t make into a mess.
He also helps me unload the dishwasher. The rubber spatulas and measuring spoons are all his job. He knows what drawer they go in and he takes pride in doing it all himself. With the rest of the dishwasher he just hands things to me…or licks them!
When I let my son help make food, that is a different story. I have to be bolstered with patience when I ask him to help me whisk the eggs, dump in the flour or shape the bread dough. And I have to be prepared for a little extra mess.
Teach your kids how to properly hold a knife and peeler. Let them help prep veggies or prepare a snack. Better yet, try one of Katie’s 20 recipes kids can make or her list of snacks that kids can make!
Yes, they should help you do dishes and clean-up as well. But I caution you, don’t make this their only kitchen interaction. If dishes is all they know about the kitchen, how likely will they be to come back willingly? Let your kids participate in the fun, creative activities of the kitchen, as well.
Grab your free cheat sheet from my Resource Library for more ways to get your kids helping in the kitchen (password at the bottom of this post).
Check out Katie’s course, Kids Cook Real Food to jump start their kitchen learning!
3. Let Your Kids Do
Letting your kids do something in the kitchen by themselves will give the a sense of pride, belonging, and accomplishment. I’m not saying you have to let them have free, unsupervised reign of the kitchen, though.
Chose a time when you are in the kitchen working on supper or other food prep and let an older child make cookies. You are in the kitchen anyways so it’s not extra time for you. Let your child do the work, answer any questions and keep an eye out to foresee any potentially disastrous situations. All without hovering too much!
Soup is a great place for kids to start learning creativity in food, as well. Let them look through the fridge and pantry and decide what they want in the soup. Help them make it for supper. As you are supervising you can advise and hopefully prevent any detrimental ingredients that would completely ruin the soup – like too much salt or pepper.
Jump when they jump. If your child all of a sudden wants to make something but there is already supper simmering or you have plenty of sweets in the house – throw it in the freezer! Let your child make what they have the impulsive desire to make and then freeze it for another time like I talk about in this post.
As your kids gain more confidence and skill in the kitchen, let them be completely in charge of a meal once or twice a month. Let them create the menu, the shopping list and find the recipes. Do (or don’t!) help them with the timing of the prep and the meal so your family isn’t eating at 10pm.
Be available if your child has questions while they are making their meal, but don’t hover.
While one kid is in charge of making dinner, have the other kids help set a fancy table or make personalized place mats! These are just some homemaking skills a kid should learn.
3 Simple Ways to Get Kids Helping in the Kitchen
1. Let them Watch
2. Let them Help
3. Let them Do
Additional ideas in my Free Resource Library (get password below)
By teaching your kids and allowing them to help and watch you in the kitchen, they will soon make their own snack instead of asking you for one. If you are sick, they will know their way around enough to care for younger siblings or even you.
As your kids get older and have more freedom in the kitchen, you may start learning from them! Jump right into their fancy meal or recipe you’ve never made before. Use all this kitchen time as bonding time.
This isn’t magic. So including your kids in the kitchen won’t make them love to cook or love to do dishes, but it will enable them with important life skills. Get kids helping in the kitchen by making it a safe place to learn, explore and grow.