Did you know that children who eat at least five times together as a family are at a lower risk for poor eating habits, substance abuse, and perform better in school? You can read the full reports here.
One of the things I admire most about the Amish is how they work together as a family. So often in our mainstream American lives, we see families all running off to do their own individual things. While I believe we all need something that is uniquely ours and learning to do things on our own is beneficial, there is nothing that can take the place of family time.
And something every person and family must do on a daily basis is eat. Not only should eating the meal as a family be something we practice, but preparing the meal as a family is something I find equally important.
One, we’re teaching our children important skills for when they are out on their own. Children who grow up watching their parent’s cook meals from scratch and learning how to do so, will be much more likely to keep up these practices. Just some of these benefits are lower food bills, living healthier, and passing on these traditions to their children, a priceless legacy in my mind.
However, cooking with children usually requires more time than if you’re doing it yourself. From the statistics above, it might be the most important thing we do with our family.
Here is my tip for cooking with children
- Plan enough time. If you’re stressed about time, you’re much more likely to rush through the meal prep yourself than allowing little hands to help.
- Give age appropriate tasks. My older child is in charge of chopping up ingredients with a child safe knife (depending upon their age). My four-year-old gets to dump in the ingredients, crack the eggs (she does a surprisingly good job of not getting any shells in the dish, but if this happens, use the large shell to scoop them out, it acts as a magnet), and stir. We’re working on letting her measure out ingredients. My son loves bacon and takes great joy when we let him cook it.
- Explain why you do things a certain way. Inform children why it’s important to proof the yeast for baking (if you’re newer to baking with breads or baked goods requiring yeast and rising, here’s my 8 tips for perfect homemade bread) why we wash our hands after handling raw eggs and meat, why we don’t put cold water in a hot baking dish, etc.
- Don’t cry over spilled flour. I never clean my kitchen before cooking with my kids. Inevitably, a small-or large-amount of flour may spill in your kitchen when cooking with kids. It’s even been known to spill without the help of my kids at our house (do not turn your Kitchen Aid mixer onto the high setting when mixing the flour from the get go, unless you’re going for a it just snowed inside look). If you’ve already accepted the fact things may get messy, you won’t stress when they do. Turn it into a everyone helps clean up lesson after you’re done cooking.
- Let everyone be part of planning the meal. Often times I’ll give my kids two options on what they’d like to have for our meal. Kids like to have a choice and feel more involved if they get a say. Plus, there’s less fussing if they get to choose and prepare the food when it comes time to eat it. And if you’ve ever fought with your kids over eating their food, you’ll likely hear a chorus of angels singing when there’s no bickering, okay, maybe not, but the silence of everyone eating instead of whining is just as heavenly.
- Have fun! Enjoy the time together. Try new recipes. Throw some flour in your hair… or not.
Need some new recipes? I’ve got over 40 easy from scratch recipes, including gluten free selections, in the recipe section.
What are your tips for cooking with children? Do you eat meals together as a family on a regular basis?