The B4FD Project features blog posts from guest writers that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner.

Family Dinner Month 2012: Sept 17 -- Oct 29, 2012


B4FD Reflections: Cooking with Kids

by Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D.

This month, Blog for Family Dinner founders will reflect back on some lessons learned from our B4FD guest bloggers over the past year.


I’m a big believer in the value of involving kids in the kitchen.  I’ve written and read lots of advice about ways for including kids in the kitchen.  We made sure we included some posts on the Blog for Family Dinner this year that offered different perspectives on involving kids in the kitchen.

Two that I found to be particularly valuable were Jennifer Cordova’s “In a Busy Kitchen with a Budding Chef” and Julie Negrin’s “The Value of Cooking and Eating as a Family.”  Jennifer provided some advice not typically included in ways to involve kids in the kitchen.  She focused on some of the sensory aspects of foods that may be overlooked when thinking of kids and cooking.  Jennifer writes,

  • Look at the recipe you’re using to see if there are small tasks your child can take part in. Measuring ingredients, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper, pulling parsley leaves for you to chop later – these are all small yet important tasks that allow children to contribute.
  • Encourage your child to experience the food as it’s being made by smelling herbs, spices and other aromatic foods and tasting little tidbits here and there. Talk about these ingredients – how they look, smell, and taste; where they come from and how they grow; other dishes they can be found in, etc.
  • Explain what you’re doing as you’re doing it – take a tip from television cooking shows and give a little performance as you cook! This doesn’t mean you have to get flamboyant, just talk through the steps you’re taking, make connections between the dish you’re cooking now and others you’ve made, describe other dishes common to this particular cuisine. Remember to encourage interaction by asking questions of your own!

In addition, to Julie’s advice for cooking with kids, I especially enjoy her approach to recipes, where she includes specific instructions by age for kids’ contributions.  Julie advises,

Pick a good time. It’s important that your first cooking experience with children is a positive one, so pick a time when everyone is well-rested and not starving.

Start with something familiar. When introducing the concept of cooking to kids, it’s important to start with one of their favorite dishes so that they equate cooking with something they already enjoy.

Find assistants. Invite Grandma over or keep your sitter for an extra hour. It’ll be more fun for everyone if there is someone else to help oversee the project and clean up.

Accept that it will get messy. Plan on some mess and you’ll feel less stressed. Kids are great cleaner-uppers so ask them to pitch in. Many kids, as young as 2 years old, love using a sponge and do a surprisingly good job of wiping up.

Roll with the punches. If something goes wrong, just laugh. It’s a good opportunity to teach children how to shrug off mistakes and learn from their blunders.

Praise their efforts. They adore making food for family members so give them lots of compliments when they complete a task well – genuine, well deserved praise builds self-worth and confidence.

You can read Jennifer’s full post here and Julie’s full post here.


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