Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How to Incorporate Kids Into Cooking in the Kitchen

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I never have to force myself to do it. I enjoy it, and it is obvious, so, my kids think it must be something fun and wonderful. They want to help, too.

My thirteen month old, Bobby, plays on the floor. At this point, he enjoys a whisk and metal bowl. He doesn't try to help beyond that. I am convinced, though, that as he sees his older brother and me working, he will want to help with various tasks that seem interesting.


My three year old, Daniel, loves measuring flour. Flour is measured by a big cup, and usually it takes several cups to get the right amount. We count aloud until it is time to stop. Sometimes, if I use only a cup or so of flour, I use a smaller measuring cup so that we can still count. He loves the texture of the flour and uses his hands to fill the measuring cup. At first, it was real messy, but he's getting the hang of it. If he makes a floury mess on the floor, I hold off sweeping it up and let both kids play with it until I am done cooking, because flour is fun to play with.

Mixing and Mashing

Daniel likes to stir. This generally does not slow me down. Neither does it slow me down if he grabs a fork and mashes potatoes with me. With most other tasks, his help does slow me down, but we have fun, so it is no trouble.


This one is fun. I like kneading dough, but it took me a while to catch on. I've heard that men are often better kneaders, as they have stronger arms and hands and can get it done faster. Teaching him to knead is an investment in my relationship with my future daughter-in-law as well as wicked cute.


I let my son count out the potatoes from the bag to the pan. He can count to eight, and occasionally slips in a nine, so this task is given over to him independently. After I wash them, he passes me one potato at a time to chop.

My son is three and his "help" does not, at this stage, contribute anything to the cooking but a good time. However, the benefits later on will be immeasurable. The fact that cooking is fun in our home means he will be my kitchen helper for years to come. It will also demonstrate to younger siblings that this is fun, and worth doing, so I will have a bunch of kitchen helpers.

Passing down the love of cooking teaches children a life lesson. Convenience foods are for people who can't cook, or don't find it enjoyable enough to devote their time to it.

Counting in the kitchen is just the beginning. Lessons in arithmatic, fractions, and algebra will find their way into the kitchen. Physics and chemistry already have.

This wasn't something I intentionally sought after though, having baby kitchen helpers. But because I love it, they love to be with me while I'm cooking. This, I think, is the key to teaching children anything, loving what you do and working hard at it yourself.


Anonymous said...

Hello from Ontario, Canada, I enjoy reading your blog on frugality and I am always looking for ways to save a Loonie (Canadian dollar coin) or two :)..........

It's amazing that you can live under a thousand a month, (due to our higher prices here that's just not possible), I am primarily a SAHM of two wonderful boys now 8 and 4 - being home and raising my little men have given me the great joy in this life.

Keep up the good work! and congrats to your new addition in the family.

Terry Lynn

Scottish Twins said...

My older son is just now taking an interest in helping in the kitchen.

Your boys are cute!

Random question that you don't have to answer if it's too personal - I noticed how close in age your youngest two are going to be. Do you formula feed or breastfeed? If you breastfeed, do you get your cycles back soon after you have your babies?

I assumed you breastfeed, since it is free. But I know when I exclusively BF I don't get my period - it's kind of like natural birth control. But I know some ladies can BF and still get their cycles.

Like I said, it may be too personal to answer here. I was just curious.

Treva said...

My DD likes to help in the kitchen, too, though sometimes with dinner I'm going too fast for her to do much. I like it better when she can help with baking, but I try to find little things for her to do. One of her favorites is when we buy grapes; I let her pluck the grapes off the stem and put them into a colander. Then we rinse them off and put them in a bowl on the table to munch on after dinner or as a snack for a day or 2. I'm going to mix up a batch of sugar cookies later this month and we are going to roll them out and then use Halloween cookie cutters, orange & purple icing, and Halloween sprinkles to decorate them.

Jenny said...

This is slightly off-topic but I'm not sure where else to post it and it does relate to children and food: where in your budget do you allow for formula if needed since you do not use WIC? If you were to need formula for one of your infants where would that money come from?

I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding and I assume that you also breastfeed, but your children are so close in age. I know that most women will experience a decrease in milk supply when pregnant and that many pregnant mothers with an infant will find that they need to supplement as the pregnancy progresses and their supply decreases.

If this became an issue for you how would you adjust your budget? Would you consider WIC at that point if needed?

Emily said...

Jenny, that question could go on the Frequently Asked Questions page. I'll add it, along with Scottish Twins' question.

Anonymous said...

Exclusively breastfeeding is not a safe form of birth control...that's a pretty common misconception that increases your chance of getting pregnant again.

I got my period back about 6 weeks after my first, and I exclusively breastfed. I was BUMMED! lol!

Anyway - My 5 year old loves being in the kitchen too! She loves helping me cook and especially helping stir, pour, measure!

My 2 month old is always in there with me too...in his baby carrier! It's the only way I can cook :)

Scottish Twins said...

Athiest Mama - I know it isn't a safe form of birth control for everyone, but for some people (like me) it prevents you from getting your period until you wean. I am still EBF my 8 month old and haven't gotten my period back yet, but I don't give any solids or formula at all.

I just was curious about her stance on BFing, because it can prevent your period (which saves money on feminine hygiene products), is free food for baby, and for some people - can help with natural family planning.

Pam said...

I'm originally from Massachusetts, so your use of "wicked" made me smile. My college roommates were all from the south, and they thought I was crazy.

I think your blog is WICKED AWESOME!

Carla said...

I agree BF'ing isn't a good birth control method. I was tandem nursing around the clock the second time around and I only had a couple of weeks between the end of my PP flow to my regular cycles.

My 5yoDD loves to help in the kitchen. She can independently cook certain things now but I like to be around to make sure she is being safe. My mom never let me cook anything ever so I want that to be different with my kids (I had to teach myself as an adult).

DD is a lot more helpful in general than my 7yoDS, who's only interest in the kitchen is to eat me out of house and home, lol!

Emily said...

I'm defitiley pro BF, but I still get my periods 6 weeks postpartum. But, I don't get pregnant until later, not exactly sure how this works, but I have a lot of infertile periods before I can get pregnant. This caused a lot of heartache between our first and second, as we feared we had fertility problems, but we obviously don't. (:

Anonymous said...

Scottish Twins - You are LUCKY!!! I *wish* ebf prevented MY period...I'm more like Emily in that department! That's all I gotta say about that ;P

Jenny said...

I also got my period back at 6 weeks post-partum with both of my children despite exclusive breastfeeding. I was determined to nurse both kids until a minimum of one year, so I was quite cautious and very careful about not getting pregnant during their infancy because I didn't want my supply to be affected. I was still nursing my first when I got pregnant with #2 and continued to breastfeed until totally losing all supply around 4-5 months pregnant, but I was okay with it by then because the older one was two years old by that point.

Mommy Musings and Meditations said...

Thank you! That's exactly what I was wondering when I asked you earlier about having your kids help in the kitchen. My 3 year old boy also loves to measure and push the manual food chopper down onto onions or peppers--it's safe :) My 15 month old empties the Tupperware cupboard...and then usually puts them on her head.

Elizabeth said...

Just ran across your blog and will check back daily! Sounds like we have a lot in common, especially living on a limited budget!

Emily said...

Mommy Musings, my baby loves the tupperware cupboard, too. He likes to pull out cans and stack them, as does my three year old.

Bubblej said...

Having kids in the kitchen is so important. I am a great cook and I love cooking and I credit this to my mother who would spend hours in the kitchen with my sister and I, just baking whatever we had the ingredients for. This has served me well since my darling fiance can't cook, so I have do to all the cooking!

Stacy said...

I love having my 2YO son help me in the kitchen, and he does too. Well, sometimes he gets into the food a bit TOO much, and I have to move to another area to finish preparing the food. However, mostly it's really fun for both of us.

crabcakes said...

Another tally for ebf and still getting my period back within a few months. None of my children even had a drop of formula and we delayed starting solids. Yet my longest post partum period was 5 months. Yay me.

My oldest loves to be in the kitchen. I also find that he really enjoys the different foods we make so if he helps, it increases his appetite for whatever we've made together. He's very hands on and I encourage it.

Linnea said...

It's wonderful to have kids helping in the kitchen! Such a great bonding time, plus teaching them about work ethic and such.
If you ever get a chance, pick up "The Surprising Power of Family Meals" by Miriam Weinstein. I can't remember if it talks specifically about the preparing of food in there, but it was the text for a class I took on Family Meal Management. We talked a lot about the benefits of having children help in the kitchen in that class - even though sometimes it can slow down your cooking a little bit. :-)

Anonymous said...

I exclusively breastfed and my period started at 6 weeks. During my post-partum exam. My doctor told me. Fun times.

I'm so jealous of the women who don't get periods when they're breastfeeding and/or the ones who lose weight while breastfeeding. I either retain or even gain weight until I wean.

I wish I had the patience to let my little ones "help" in the kitchen, but I just don't. I don't have much spare time at all because I work full-time and go to college full-time. When I cook, I need to get in there and get out as fast as I can in order to study, do homework, or just hang with the family. Maybe when I'm finished with school we can start cooking together.

Kathleen said...

I know this post is old, but I just found you, and wanted to say that it so does pay off. My son started helping me in the kitchen at a very young age and now at 6, he is awesome.

I trust him with my good knife, (he is very careful to keep his fingers out of the way) so he chops all my potatoes and carrots and sweet potatoes. He cracks eggs and does it with out peel 95% of the time now (a slow learning process) and he has favorite recipes he suggests now.

But of the common things we make he does fully half of the work, which is cool for me and awesome for him, especially when he is an adult.

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