Teaching kids to cook is a very natural process. Beginning as toddlers with observation and stirring the pancake batter and then growing up to help mom with meal prep and doing the actual cooking is a regular part of the homeschooling lifestyle.
Teach Kids to Cook Simple Meals with These Simple Tips
One way you can help them along in the process of learning to cook is to teach them to cook simple meals from an early age. However, before you get to the actual cooking part, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Set boundaries and rules
Of course, keeping your kids safe is the number one priority, so it stands to reason that having a good chat about some boundaries and rules is a good idea.
A few rules to keep in mind might be . . .
- Only use the stove with adult permission (and perhaps supervision)
- use the proper tool for the job (you don’t need a steak knife to spread butter)
- clean as you go
- always wash your hands before you begin
- keep long hair pulled back
- keep paper towels, rags, and other cloth/paper away from the range at all times
- be mindful of smaller children who might get underfoot
(There is a printable list of rules in the Kids Kitchen Binder)
Keep the tools they’ll need at their level
To minimize the kids climbing on the counter to reach things, consider storing the tools they might need at their level.
Kids love to have special tools of their own. You could take a special trip to the dollar store to load up on wooden spoons, cutting boards, spatulas, and any other kitchen gadgets they might need.
If you have space, store these items in a basket or bucket in a place they can reach without climbing. Having their own special tools in a designated place, just for them, will likely increase their want to use the items (more cooking experience!) and their motivation to keep them all clean and looking nice (kids willingly cleaning up after themselves? yes, please!).
Let them help you
The absolute number one way to teach kids to cook simple meals is to let them help you. Now, this isn’t always easy, especially for us moms who are a bit particular about how things are done in the kitchen.
But, hey, here are a few really good reasons to let them in on the cooking action . . .
- Involving the kids in the process of cooking greatly increases the chance that they’ll actually try the finished dish.
- Inviting children into the kitchen and involving them from a young age fosters a healthy habit that will likely have lifelong benefits.
- Cooking and meal prep is a great catalyst for teachable moments. Questions like why the chicken doesn’t have feathers by the time it gets to us or where our fish comes from are great conversation starters.
- Cooking teaches kids what should be in food, and more importantly, what shouldn’t.
- Cooking brings people together. By spending time together in the kitchen, you’re bonding, creating memories, and getting to know each other better.
- It gives them confidence. When they realize they can make a pizza or flatbread, they develop self-confidence the spills over into other areas of life.
Simple meals to make together
Now that you’ve got an idea of how the kids can help in the kitchen, let’s talk about what you can make together. When you first start cooking with the kids, you’ll want to have some things already done ahead of time. Having the meat pre-cooked, cheese already shredded, and basic meal prep done helps a lot.
The meals/snacks below are perfect for beginners . . .
- sandwiches – yes it seems basic, but mastering the technique of spreading (whether it be mayo, butter, peanut butter, or jelly) takes time and can be hard for little hands
- burritos – put some seasoned meat, a smear of refried beans, some cheese, and any other toppings you’d like on a tortilla and roll it up
- salads – knife skills come into play here – carrots and celery are good first vegetables to cut
- pancakes – fluffy, sweet pancakes are easily made and generally forgiving in the cooking department, too (If you want to get fancy, try pancake poppers!)
- pizzas – whether you’re using precooked dough or homemade, it’s always fun making pizza together
- smoothies – introduce your kids to the mixer by throwing in some almond milk, honey, and frozen berries
- hummus – this snack if very versatile, experiment with different spices to get different flavors
By teaching the kids to cook early on, you’re also doing yourself a favor. In a few years, those little ones will be able to help you write meal plans, make the grocery list, and work out the grocery budget.
Terribly messy but totally worth it, It’s easy to teach kids to cook simple meals. It just takes time, patience, and a lot of soap and water.
Jeniffer is a homeschool mom of six who focuses on collecting memories instead of things. She stretches every penny, makes every moment count, and is never far from a good book and a cup of coffee. You’ll find her journey of frugal living and homeschooling her brood at Thou Shall Not Whine. Connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.