Getting the kids in the kitchen

Getting the kids in the kitchen, why bother?

 

So first things first, let’s talk about the most obvious reasons why you shouldn’t bake (or cook) with your kids – they are so messy and everything takes a lot longer than it would if you just did it yourself. These are two realities that you can’t get away from. However, the incredible things that can be gained from this slower and messy experience are so worthwhile.

 

Food preparation is a great way to start, and it doesn’t have to be the entire process, you can pick out a little part and ask for their help and slowly introduce both yourself and your child to the experience. From measuring out spoons of porridge for breakfast or making breadcrumbs for stuffing, there is a myriad of easy things to give them a bit of confidence. One of my favourites to do with my 2-year-old picky eater is veg prep for a stir-fry. Now I’ll preface this by saying he knows that he’s not to put his hand near Mammy’s chopping board or knife. I set him up on a 2 step beside me and while I chop up vegetables we talk about what they look like or feel like. As I finish chopping each vegetable group, he’s in charge of putting them into little bowls. He absolutely loves it and more recently he’s started to eat his portion of all the vegetables while they’re still raw. It’s a win-win, I know what he’s up to while I’m in the kitchen, and he is unknowingly eating his dinner without any fuss. In fact, he’s now more likely to eat the entire stir-fry dinner because he was involved in the process. For my 6-year-old daughter, I have started to let her use a butter knife to cut softer vegetables like mushrooms or broccoli, measure out the rice that we need and mix up the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce. So as they grow, so do their kitchen skills.

 

In my opinion, the younger you get your children involved in food preparation, whatever it is, the better. If they grow up involved in preparing meals and baking, they are more likely to feel comfortable in the kitchen into their teenage years and adulthood. It’s not an unknown space, and it gives them a wealth of knowledge and experience that they will accept eagerly because they get to be just like Mammy and Daddy. I started to include my small people from around 18 months old. At that age, they have a decent grasp of language and understand that no means no, and they can comfortably keep themselves in an upright position. They are also extremely interested and inquisitive little beings.

Most kids will happily eat their food with their fingers at around that age, even if it’s soup, so anything that they can mix with their fingers is great. It gives them a chance to explore new foods in a way that they are already familiar with, through texture. Both baking and cooking have an abundant amount of different textures to explore. Think of it like building blocks, start by introducing textures and then add in their other senses. Encouraging them to smell different ingredients is great, listening to the sounds of different ingredients mixing together (think of your bowl of rice crispies) in the big hope that they will want to taste new foods and not be scared by them. The most important thing is to have fun and to foster a positive relationship with food.

Another great and very unexpected outcome from my time in the kitchen with my daughter was that she became superb at counting very quickly. Obviously, I have always had a love of baking and I would stand her up on the 2 step stool beside me and get her involved. I have a very old-fashioned weighing scale with a large triangular face on it and a dial that shows the weight. It started off that I would show her where the number 3 was and to let me know when the big hand reached it, and soon she was counting along while I was measuring out the ingredients. Now I hand her the ingredients and tell her how much we need and leave the rest to her.

 

Both my kids love it when we bake bread or pizza together. The actual bread or pizza dough portion is one half of the fun and the other half comes from the leftover raw dough, the floury worktop, and the extra bowls and spoons that I give them with a little extra dried rice, pasta or porridge. Now they are in complete control, and they continue on with their messy fun while I have a cuppa. You really see the little bakers and chefs coming out and their confidence grows. The pride that baking and cooking gives to children, whether it’s involvement in making the family dinner or a mixed bowl of dried pasta and flour post bread making, is phenomenal.

Don’t be fooled at all by this blog post though. This was not a formal decision of mine. I never started in the kitchen with them with all of this in mind, it just happened. I love to cook and bake and I wanted to share it with them. But the longer it continued the more I realised how much good was coming from it and how much both kids loved it…and so did I.

 

So, if you’ve never tried baking and cooking in the kitchen with your small little people, I would highly recommend it; start small with plenty of time and enjoy the shared experience. If you are looking for some kid-friendly bakes, I have some simple and very tasty recipes within my blog posts that would certainly suit you.

 

Never forget that there is nothing to fear when it comes to baking, give it a go and have some fun!

 

Love,

Jen

 

Share the love of your baking extravaganza with the group and tag @thepixieboxbakery on Facebook or Instagram- I love to see everyone’s bakes that they create!

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