Planning cooking activities with children is not always as simple as pulling out the cookbook and jumping into the task. For the child, it’s not a lot of fun to watch an adult do all the work. The key to an enjoyable and successful time in the kitchen with youngsters is a little bit of advance preparation. Allowing children to participate in each phase from adding ingredients to mixing to baking inspires confidence and a sense of involvement. Cooking activities can also offer learning opportunities in the areas of math, science, nutrition, creativity and following directions.
Select a kid-friendly recipe that is not too complicated. Cookie recipes are particularly well suited for this kind of activity, but any recipe that offers plenty of hands-on participation will do.
Allow more than enough time to complete the recipe. Completing a task will almost always take a little longer if a child is involved. Rushing things can result in bad results or, worse yet, kitchen accidents. Enjoyment of the activity can be negatively impacted by a rushed schedule as well.
Measure ingredients ahead of time if very young children will be participating. School-age children can benefit from measuring ingredients themselves, because this kind of activity will enhance math skills.
Read the recipe out loud to guide the children through each phase of preparation. This will reinforce listening skills and help children learn to follow directions. For example, if a cookie recipe begins with the directions “Cream together sugar and butter,” explain what the term “cream” means in the context of the recipe. Let the children do most of the mixing and stirring as well as adding ingredients.
Instruct the children regarding any baking preparations that need to happen. Many recipes require hands-on work before the food can be baked. For example, sugar-cookie batter will need to be rolled out and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Many casseroles require a layering of ingredients. These kinds of recipes offer excellent opportunities for hands-on participation.
Keep safety in mind at all times. Adults should handle cooking tasks that involve exposure to heat, such as pulling cookies from the oven or heating ingredients on a stove.
Involve children in the preparation of finished foods. For example, children enjoy arranging cooled cookies on a decorative platter or setting the table around a finished casserole or main dish.
- Limit the number of children who are participating in a cooking activity. A group of four or five children is manageable, but larger groups can be chaotic if not downright dangerous unless the kitchen is quite large and several other adults are involved.