How to make cooking with children fun (for all concerned!)
- Created: Friday, 06 June 2014 12:08
Charlotte runs Bayleaf Cookery School with her husband in Warwickshire, showing children how easy it is to cook proper, grown up, delicious dishes from scratch and passing on practical skills that will last a lifetime. At Bayleaf Cookery School we get children excited about cooking by showing them how easy and enjoyable it is to cook delicious dishes from scratch.
I’ve yet to meet a child that doesn’t enjoy cooking, but a huge number of parents shy away from cooking with their children. It’s no surprise - it’s messy, it requires endless patience and you need confidence in your ability to share skills, then there’s the tricky business of finding time in lives that are already very busy.
The thing is, cooking with children isn’t hard to do with a little preparation and it can be loads of fun for all concerned. Getting children into the kitchen is a focus these days for all sorts of good reasons: cooking for yourself is fun, healthy and relaxing and you never forget how to do it. Just follow these simple rules and you and your children will get loads out of it!
1) Ask your children what they’d actually like to cook. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people don’t ask and it prompts some surprising answers. If it’s something they’re keen on doing they’re far more likely to be engaged at every stage. To be fair, 9 times out of 10 they’ll say fairy cakes, but why not? It’s supposed to be fun, not a lesson in nutrition (and once they’re enjoying themselves it’s easy to sneak the healthy information in by stealth!).
2) Set aside a time to do it that fits in with everyone, don’t try to do it when you’re also rushing to get dinner on, if there’s a homework deadline looming, or if everyone’s tired. Plan it sensibly and give it the attention it needs. If you think of it as a fun family activity it’s much more likely to end up being one!
3) Choose a simple recipe that you’re familiar with. You might be a great cook yourself but when it comes to imparting that knowledge, start out with the basics - a big fat failure on the first attempt will put everyone off.
4) Plan ahead - make a list of the ingredients you’ll need and make sure you’ve got them in (and most definitely before you tell the children to wash their hands and put on their apron). It’ll save you mucho frustration all round when you realise too late you’re out of a key ingredient.
5) If you’re going to try cooking reasonably frequently with your children it might be worth investing in some child-friendly equipment. Silicon spoons and cake tins are lightweight and robust, smaller rolling pins are easier for little hands - there are loads of great quality items available on the high street these days.
6) Try and look at the whole thing as a fun activity, rather than focusing on the end result. If you’re a hands on parent like me you might find it difficult to hand over the delicate rolling of pastry to a child, or the cracking of eggs but it’s not about perfection, it’s about getting stuck in. Just make sure you’ve got spare eggs.
7) Ignore any “additional ingredients” - children can’t help but lick their fingers repeatedly. Try to tell yourself the oven will kill off any germs they’ve added!
8) If you have 2 (or more) chefs to entertain in the kitchen have a think about how you can divide the recipe equally so that everyone gets a chance to have an important role. Taking it in turn to add ingredients works well, or encouraging them to work together (one holds the sieve whilst the other adds the flour for example).
9) Brace yourself for mess. It’s inevitable.