I love cooking. This love came from my mom who had us helping in the kitchen as soon as we were able to stand. And that was deepened with my first cooking class when I was six.
My challenge as a parent is how to offer this same experience to my daughter without getting stressed out. By talking with my mom and cooking with Gates for almost two years, I've come up with these tips to ensure we have fun when we're in the kitchen together.
What are your favorite recipes to make with kids?
We started fostering a love of cooking in Gates before she was a year old. Before she was eating solid foods with the books we read to her and the toys she played with. When she started eating solid foods (following recommended food introduction guidelines), we introduced her to a variety of cuisines and ingredients. Even taking her to a Michelin Star restaurant, Luce, for her first birthday!
Now that she's older, she helps sort the fruits and vegetables from our weekly CSA box and suggests dishes to try making. (We just started letting her watch Master Chef Junior--or as she calls it Kids Cooking--and this has unleashed her imagination as she now wants to participate in similar challenges in our kitchen!).
Tips for Raising a Foodie
Instilling an appreciation of food and where ingredients come from in your kids starts when they're young. Unfortunately this can also mean lots of frustration as you try to make dinner and they try to help.
What I've found that works best for us is to work around nap time or start the activity shortly after breakfast when everyone is still pretty alert. Besides finding the right time for your activity, these additional 8 tips will reduce things you need to worry about so that you both can have fun:
- Make sure you're not in a hurry. Cooking with kids, especially little ones, takes at least twice as long as if you were in the kitchen by yourself.
- Pick recipes with simple ingredients and techniques. When you first start cooking with your little ones, you want to reduce the likelihood of the end result turning out inedible. Also, the more steps and techniques the faster you'll lose your little one's interest.
- Opt for recipes with lots of ingredients that are safe to eat raw. Vegan recipes are great for little ones because you don't have to worry about them ingesting raw eggs or honey.
- Encourage your little ones to sample the ingredients (and the batter). If your recipes include unsafe ingredients try adding those after your helper has done the majority of the work. Be aware that this doesn't work for all recipes.
- Select recipes where kids can use their hands. Bread and cookies are great. Kids get to feel the dough as they knead or spoon out cookies.
- Encourage kids to work on hand-eye-coordination. Letting your little ones dividing dough into cupcake or muffin tins is great practice. As it can also be pretty messy, make sure your workspace is easy to clean up.
- Don't blindly follow recipes. Depending on how much of the ingredients your helper samples you may have more or less of something than you need. So if your batter is very runny don't be afraid to add a little flour to get it the right consistency. Likewise, if your batter is very crumbly don't be afraid to add a little more liquid.
- Be OK if the results don't match your expectations. Talk through with your helper what might have happened. If your brownies didn't rise, did you forget the baking powder?
Top Five 2015 Raising a Foodie Posts (Four Recipes to try!)
With our mid-year move from The Station to The Nest, all of us cooked less. Being uncertain when you're going to move and then having everything in boxes, takes a toll on culinary exploration and motivation!
But since August and setting up the basic necessities in our kitchen (we still have a few more boxes of non-essential stuff left to unpack), we've resumed our tradition as cooking as a family. We (cubes and I) even baked two dozen vegan chocolate chip cookies and two dozen apple pear cupcakes with caramel icing (a variation on my mom's chopped apple pear cake) for a fundraiser at Gates' preschool (while she slept)!
Here are the recipes we made together in 2015 along with tips we've learned for making the experience fun for both parent and child:
- Cooking with Kids (and Having Fun While Doing It!) Guest Post on Positively Oakes (includes a Vegan Tea Cake recipe!)
- Developing an Appreciation for Fresh, Seasonal Ingredients
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Farm Fresh Lemonade
- Coming this week: Gates' Award-Winning Mac and Cheese (less hands on than other recipes and more geared towards an older child as it involves supervised use of the stovetop)
In 2016, we'll be continuing our Raising a Foodie series and are planning to publish at least one recipe or tip post a month. Got a question about cooking with littles that you'd like us to tackle? Share it in the comments below and Gates and I will research the answer!
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.