Last week I was asked to participate in the Cooking Connections class at The Motherhood. There were so many great tips and ideas given. Check out some of the highlights and then you can also visit the full class here: Cooking Connections
It’s NOT a recipe for disaster to involve kids in cooking – and in TheMotherhood on June 15, 2011, women gathered to talk about ways to engage kids in the kitchen! Read on for a few good reasons (and strategies) to get your kids involved in meal prep. Thank you to our wonderful sponsor, ConAgra Foods, for helping make this fantastic class possible.
Quality Time (With Dinner to Show for It!)
Cooking and eating together as a family gives you a chance to do something productive while also spending quality time with your kids. Working toward a common goal creates opportunities to praise them, show affection and bond as a family!
Stacy, Stacy Uncorked, said of cooking with her daughter, “Princess Nagger likes feeling involved in the cooking process, especially when I let her take the lead on measuring ingredients.”
“I like having my children help to cook because it shows them that I think they are growing up and responsible enough. That really pleases them,” added Karen, 3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires.
Vanessa, The Sew*er, The Caker, The Copycat-Maker, said, “I have older kids and I am happy to teach them skills that they can take with them when they leave home!”
School’s Out, but Learning Continues
When the school year ends, most kids want to use summer vacation for playtime and forget about “learning” for a while. But learning doesn’t need to be about sitting still, reading books and doing homework – interacting in the kitchen can make learning FEEL like playtime.
“We use cooking as a teaching opportunity in many aspects,” acknowledged Stacie, The Divine Miss Mommy.
Ways to incorporate learning into fun kitchen time:
Practice reading and comprehension: Ask your child to read the recipe and help you follow it to prepare the dish.
Practice math skills: All recipes use basic math like counting, measuring and following step-by-step instructions.
“I love teaching my daughter about measuring since they are covering that in school. It kind of sticks in your head easier when you understand 1/4 or 1/2 cup, etc,” said Tammy, Tammy’s Two Cents.
“Even my 2-year-old can work on her counting! ‘We need 2 cups of flour…’” added Jessica, Vanderbilt Wife.
Reddi-wip recipes in particular are fun for younger kids, helping them practice counting, while creating less mess for you to clean up. New Reddi-wip recipes are written like no other dessert recipes out there: ingredients are measured in time (seconds) rather than amounts – so no dirty measuring cups at the end.
“I love the Reddi-wip idea of ‘time’…I think my son would just count to ten as it squirts in his mouth!” joked Tammy, Tammy’s Two Cents.
Learn science concepts: Food changes during cooking, and kids will “learn by doing” about chemical reactions like: hot v. cold, floating v. sinking, dissolving, melting and freezing, among others.
Fadra, All Things Fadra, agreed that “since baking is more of a science, we talk about what the ingredients are for and why the measurement is so important.”
“I love science in the kitchen,” said Vanessa, The Sew*er, The Caker, The Copycat-Maker. “It is so important to link school and the things we do every day so kids can make the connection that school really is about life.”
Practice social skills: When kids work together, take turns and solve problems together, they learn how to interact with others. As a result, they can take pride in a successfully prepared recipe.
Jenna, A Mom’s Balancing Act, said cooking “helps to encourage sharing and cooperation – when both my kids are helping me at the same time.”
Learn about nutrition and health: Checking labels and understanding portion sizes is the first step to a healthy diet. It’s important to get kids’ eating habits on the right path at an early age!
In addition, “We use those chances to talk about health things like raw eggs, always washing hands, etc,” said Liz, A Belle, A Bean, A Chicago Dog.
Telling time: As Karen, 3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires, pointed out, “Cooking opens some great opportunities for practicing telling time. You could ask your child, ‘This needs to chill (or bake) for 45 minutes. What time is it now? What time should it be ready for the next step?’”
For younger kids, Liz has a fun strategy for communicating time: “I often put it in terms of cartoons,” she said. “Like, it will take 1 [episode of] Kai Lan before we can do more.”
Bring in history: Get creative in helping your kids bring history or other cultures to life.
Amy, Cajun Inspired Living, noted, “We have eaten lots of culture-specific meals and even played dress-up a time or two to go along with different things they were studying.”
Here’s a great article that talks about how kids can learn valuable skills through helping in the kitchen: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Kids learn valuable life skills kitchen/4800830/story.html
Added Karen, 3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires, “I write a series on my blog about learning activities centered around playing restaurant called ‘Play to Learn Diner.’ Many of those activities could easily be translated into activities in a real kitchen.”
Here is the link: http://www.3garnets2sapphires.com/search/label/Play%20to%20Learn%20Diner
Help Kids Develop Love of Cooking and New Foods
Kids can start helping in the kitchen from a very young age – it’s just about assigning age-appropriate tasks.
Toddlers can help by snapping green beans in half, tearing up lettuce or helping you mix batter by hand. Grade-school kids can begin measuring dry and liquid ingredients, cracking eggs, juicing lemons, etc. Work out a progression of skills in the kitchen as your children grow.
“Fruit kabobs, veggie kabobs are great for little hands to assemble, or a good teriyaki chicken kabob can be assembled by the older kids,” noted Vanessa, The Sew*er, The Caker, The Copycat-Maker.
“My toddler loves dumping things into a mixing bowl (coordination!), counting, stirring, placing items (like on a pizza),” suggested Jessica, Vanderbilt Wife.
Jenna, A Mom’s Balancing Act, added, “My 3 year old loves helping wash the vegetables.”
And rounding out the toddler skill set, “When my youngest was two, she could set the table, hand us utensils and we even let her stir. She loved it!” said Stacie, The Divine Miss Mommy.
Going beyond quality time and healthier eating, there are a whole host of benefits to cooking with your kids, and you can find many of them in this article from Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/cooking-with-your-children
Additional tips for cooking with kids (shared by Jessica, Vanderbilt Wife): http://onceamonthmom.com/top-ten-tuesday-cooking-with-kids/
A Few Easy Summer Recipes to Try
ConAgra Foods recipe website ReadySetEat offers a lot of simple, fun summer meal ideas that are easy to prepare with kids. ReadySetEat.com is your weeknight dinner destination for recipes that use simple ingredients and are ready in 30 minutes or less.
We know from experience that the following quick meals are the BEST in the summertime! Simple prep and clean-up will help keep kids interested while they’re helping in the kitchen, and then everyone can get outside together for fun in the sun.
Easy Chicken Fajitas: http://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-Easy-Chicken-Fajitas-5485.html
Barbecue Chicken Dinner Packets: http://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-Barbecue-Chicken-Dinner-Packets-5554.html
Asian Style Turkey Burger: http://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-AsianStyle-Turkey-Burger-3436.html
BLT Pasta Salad: http://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-BLT-Pasta-Salad-5570.html
Other Recipe Ideas:
Po-boys (from Amy, Cajun Inspired Living): http://www.amybayliss.com/2007/04/saving-time-money-in-kitchen/
Summer Bow-Ties (from Jessica, Vanderbilt Wife): http://www.vanderbiltwife.com/2008/06/summer-pasta-lovin.html
“I take frozen bread or the tubes of refrigerated bread…thaw them, roll them out and sometimes fill them with pizza fillings, veggies, or even cold meats and cheeses – roll them up and let them bake for about 30 minutes. It makes a great meal to eat on a picnic, etc.,” suggested Jenna, A Mom’s Balancing Act.
“We use the slow cooker a lot during the hot summer months – since there are sometimes so many ingredients that get put into it at once, it’s especially fun for Princess Nagger to help put it together,” said Stacy, Stacy Uncorked.
“We have been making a lot of fruit salad. The kids get to peel, cut and wash with that one,” added Stacie, The Divine Miss Mommy.
A Few Kid-Friendly Dessert Recipes to Try
Reddi-wip has an awesome website for easy summer dessert recipes. There, you’ll see ideas to mix IN fun – by trying Reddi-wip as an ingredient. Learn more here: http://www.reddiwip.com/recipes/simple-dessert-recipes.jsp
Reddi-wip is also a great way to put together an easy, healthy dessert. A bowl of sliced fresh fruit can become a dessert with a simple spritz of whipped cream.
As Cooper pointed out, Reddi-wip is great for adding sweetness to healthy desserts, because it is made with real cream, and one serving has only 15 calories. And it doesn’t use hydrogenated oil, like the other guys.
“I would love to learn about more Reddi-wip desserts. We frequently have cut up strawberries and Reddi-wip in the summertime,” said Fadra, All Things Fadra.
For a snack of fewer than 100 calories, try this Strawberries on a Cloud recipe – vanilla wafers with Reddi-Wip and sliced strawberries: http://www.reddiwip.com/recipes-Strawberries-On-A-Cloud-3521.html
More Dessert Recipe Ideas:
Mango Paradise Ice Cream Cake (Karen, 3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires): http://www.3garnets2sapphires.com/2010/01/giveaway-review-mango-paradise-ice.html
Peach Cake (Jessica, Vanderbilt Wife): http://www.vanderbiltwife.com/2009/06/family-recipe-fridays-peach-cake.html
Frozen Dixie Cups (Amy, Cajun Inspired Living): http://www.amybayliss.com/2011/06/frozen-dixie-cups-cajun-style/