Experts agree that there are many benefits to cooking with children. Families that cook and eat together are more likely to produce happy, self-confident children. Since homemade meals tend to be healthier than store-bought, cooking with your children introduces them to the process of selecting and preparing healthier food. In addition, children are famously resistant to Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but if they are involved in cooking nutritious food they are more likely to try it – and like it.
Kid-Friendly Design: The design of your kitchen has a big impact on how easy cooking with children can be. If you’re doing a kitchen renovation, ensure that the design allows the children to see you cook when they’re at the table or elsewhere in the room. They will learn by watching and it will spark their enthusiasm. Microwaves are a good, safe tool for children to learn to cook, so many parents start their children off with microwave recipes. However, don’t put your microwave over the stove where it’s inaccessible to shorter children. When choosing a sink, remember that children are more likely to wash the dishes if they have a “fun” sprayer to use. A refrigerator with a water dispenser allows children to get their own water. However, to avoid having your children grapple with a big refrigerator when obtaining snacks or milk, you can install a fridge drawer in an island.
Safety: If your children are very small, then your kitchen design should focus on keeping them safe. Cabinet door locks and stove locks prevent small children from indulging curiosity that might get them hurt. But safety is equally important when cooking with children in older age groups. They should never cook unsupervised and should be carefully taught how to use potentially dangerous equipment such as knives, ovens, and mixers. They should be taught never to reach across hot burners and to turn pot handles inward so younger siblings can’t grab them. Children should also develop the habit of washing their hands before they start cooking.
Tools: To encourage cooking, children should have their own set of kitchen tools that are stored in a lower drawer or cabinet – or a special container devoted to that purpose. Useful implements for cooking with children include: measuring cups and spoons, kid-sized oven mitts, an appropriate paring knife, an apron, a small cutting board, and a spatula.
Storage: Children often want to get their own snacks, so it helps to have an area dedicated to preparing snacks that is away from the main work triangle – so children won’t be underfoot while you’re cooking a meal. If you’re cooking with children frequently, you can designate a storage area that is accessible to kids for the ingredients they use most often. For instance, if they like to bake, you can group the baking supplies where kids can reach them; if they like to make pasta dishes, you can store the linguine and tomato sauce in a kid-friendly spot.
Accessibility: If you are doing a kitchen renovation, you can make cooking with children easier by designing one area of the kitchen with lower counters (about six inches lower than the norm) to make it accessible to children. Be sure to have a sturdy stool available so children can work comfortably at taller counters. If you want them to help unload the dishwasher, store some of the most commonly used glasses and dishes in lower drawers and cabinets.
What things have you done to make your kitchen more child-friendly?