Food is such a major part of this time of the year. Each holiday comes with its own set of special food traditions and so many memories are made in the kitchen or around the table. There are lots of recipes, books, and blogs all about cooking with you kids. I thought I’d collect some of my favorite tips and talk through a few reasons why including your kids in the cooking process can not only build your family’s memories but also your children’s brains.
Kids are fascinated with food and the kitchen from very early on – The sounds, the smells, the fact that grown-ups spend a lot of time in there getting everything ready to go.
Here are a few tips to make cooking with your kids safe and fun!
- Washing your hands before, during, and after your projects – especially these days with handwashing being such an important factor in keeping our communities safe. Start by modeling good handwashing technique by washing up yourself then help them wash their hands by singing a little song that they can eventually sing on their own to make handwashing effective and fun.
- Practice listening ears. Play a little game of Simon Says before you get started or have some other listening reminder for them before you get started. Listening is the most important part of cooking together.
- When there are sharp or hot items involved in your recipe, talk through what that means and model “ouch” as a visual and audio cue for what could happen. The goal is not to keep kids away from these parts of the recipes, but to be aware of potential consequences of those dangerous factors. In these moments it’s ok for their participation to be by observation, but let them know why.
- At the beginning (especially with small children), keep the recipes EASY – 5 or 6 ingredients at most to be sure you can take it from start to finish together!
- Go slowly and let messes happen. Our little ones are still building up those skills and muscles needed to accomplish a lot of the tasks in the kitchen. Save cooking together for moments when you’re not in a rush to eat or to get somewhere. Let them take their time with activities and if messes happen (and they will) take that moment to clean-up as you go.
Like I said before, cooking is not just for the memories and fun, but so many of the skills we use in the kitchen build up those muscle memories and motor skills that we utilize in all parts of our lives. Many of the things we practice in our art classes at Bubbles Academy directly correlate to these cooking concepts. When cooking with your little ones remember that it is not just that the kids are “helping” the grownups or the grown-ups are “helping” the kids, but that it is an activity you’re doing together.
Here are the parts of recipes that best allow involving our little ones:
- Measuring. For things like sugar and flour, using measuring spoons have our little ones scoop up the ingredients, help them level them off, and have them dump it out wherever it needs to go. You can also have them help you measure by showing them the line you want to fill and letting them tell you “STOP” when you get there.
- Pouring. When measuring liquids, have your little one help pour. Show them how to use both hands and just like they can prompt you to “STOP” switch it up so they can do it/
- Counting. Counting how many scoops you’ve put in, how many eggs you’ve cracked, or how many strawberries go in each tin. They can help dole them out or practice their numbers as you go along.
- Mixing and stirring. Have your little one hold the big spoon and mix ingredients together. Watching how they incorporate is such a satisfying and fulfilling activity for them. This is also an activity that gets our little one to cross the midline of their body and an excellent practice in using our “helper” hand to hold the bowl still.
- Spreading. Just like with paint, we want our little one to work on covering a whole surface. This is another time when we cross the midline and use our helper hand. Use a kids safe knife or a spoon to help with that spreading.
- Shaking and sprinkling. Everyone loves a finishing touch and whether it’s sprinkles to finish off cookies or cheese to top of a casserole, shaking them in shakers or sprinkling between their fingers are great practice in holding, pinching, and fine motor dexterity.
- Remember that observation is a valid form of participation. Your little one needs you to model everything before they can try it themselves. Especially for more complicated moments, know that just because you might be the one with the tools in your hand does not mean that your little one has not “done it” with you.
Now that you’ve read through tips and tricks, here’s a few ideas for you to try for a NYE celebration at home!
- Noon Year’s Eve Mocktail – Set up some special cups, have your little ones count some blueberries into the bottom – 2 or 3 in each cup. Help them pour some sparkling apple or grape juice to a predetermined line. Then use these festive drinks to ring in an early New Year’s. *Make sure anyone included is aware for the berries to avoid any choking hazards*
- Banana Sushi – Lay out a tortilla flat and have them spread a favorite spread over the top of it – peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, nutella all work well. Peel a banana and place in on the tortilla and roll it up. Cut into ~inch sized pieces. For extra fun, dip one side into melted chocolate and sprinkle on chopped nuts, coconut flakes, or colorful sprinkles.
- Party Dip – A healthy snack for your celebration. This is a great one for your kids to help use those mixing muscles. Measure out approximately ⅓ cup of plain or greek yogurt, smash one ripe avocado, add a squeeze of lemon juice and little shake of garlic powder for flavor and mix until smooth. Then dip veggies like celery, carrots, and cucumbers or some tortilla chips to enjoy!
Now it’s time to celebrate all that you have accomplished together! Happy New Year!
Amelia’s been moving and grooving from day one. Her parents once told her that as a child she “wasn’t content until she could walk on her own.” Walking quickly turned into dancing, and she’s never stopped. Originally from Houston, Texas, Amelia spent her childhood trying to do anything she considered “artistic” until finally finding her passion in theatre and dance. She graduated from Northwestern University where she was a Theatre major, Dance minor, and graduated with a certificate in Music Theatre.
Working at Bubbles is a dream come true! The mixture of imagination, adventure, art, and music is perfect for Miss Amelia’s energetic and creative spirit. She has been working with young children since she was a teenager, and loves the opportunity Bubbles gives to combine her love of children with her love of the arts. When not working, she can be found on stage performing, teaching herself how to play musical instruments, and baking treats for friends!