You don’t have to be a world class chef to making family cooking an important part of your routine. Like with most things, the key is motivating everyone to just get the process started. Your child’s intrinsic motivation can take it from there. But it will take some planning and advanced considerations. We’re here to help you get organized to have fun while you cook with your kids. Here are the top five things to consider:
Medical Importance of Getting Your Children Involved in Cooking
Let’s face it, our country (USA) has been discussing an obesity crisis for years. Quick note on this: it shouldn’t be described as an obesity “epidemic.” The definition of an epidemic involves transmissible illness. This is more of a crisis because many families don’t have the time, resources, or knowledge to teach healthy eating. The research indicates that there are many sound medical reasons to cook with your kids for proper dietary habits.
I remember learning about the food pyramid growing up. But it wasn’t until I got to college that I truly understood what it all meant–as well as what society had hid/shielded me from growing up. Moreover, my parents (sorry mom and dad) didn’t always know how to make the best family dietary choices.
Now, we are no health food nuts with our kids. But I have to give credit to my wife for really driving home the point that what you put into your body matters. A decade ago, I cannot say that I considered this enough. Your immune system requires nutrition to function–duh. Check out this Harvard Medical School article about naturally boosting your immune system. This is a pretty thorough list of ways. I’d add on top of that plenty of sunshine (disclaimer: I am not a doctor and cannot give medical advice).
Fun Ways to Cook With Kids and Products That Can Help
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…. Sorry, sidetracked there. Last Christmas my son received a gift from his Grandmother. It was the eat2explore kit–two kits to be exact for France and Italy. This company creates small kits for preparing meals. Each kit is from a designated country. The key with this product is it doesn’t come with hardly any waste. We’ve tried meal prep products in the past and they seemed to be wasteful and not really conducive to a wholistic experience. I mean, these companies would go as far as prep your ingredients. If all I’m doing is putting things in a pot, AND I have all this styrene (stuff used in Styrofoam packaging) to dispose of, then I’ll pass. Eat2explore is really just a paper box and a bottle or small bag of seasoning–you have to go out and purchase the food ingredients. That’s fine, I love Whole Foods anyway. But I digress.
Check out this post documenting our second kit–Boeuf Bourguignon.
A few years ago, our kids were also doing a summer cooking camp in Denver Highlands called Sticky Fingers. I recommend this type of camp because it at least exposes the kids to culinary situations. It’s tough to always try to get this done at home. This was a camp that our kids actually seemed to enjoy several years in a row, and they still use the dull cooking knives they got at the end of class.
Top Ways to Get Kids Interested in Cooking:
- Use the aforementioned meal kits as a motivating factor. It gives the sense of adventure that is really required to make cooking fun.
- Whether you use a meal kit or not, allow the kids to come help you pick out ingredients
- Have each cooking experience be “themed,” perhaps to a favorite movie setting. I like Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies in general, much less kids’ movies, and so I like to incorporate a French theme and the kids seem to enjoy that. You should even turn the TV off and play a good Spotify Café Paris play list.
- Prepare for cleanup. I definitely try to impart the wisdom of a clean kitchen. But this is a battle I often lose with our young kids. Have them help clean up to an extent, but don’t get so fixated on the mess that you detract from the ultimate goal–intrinsic motivation.
- Think in advance of things the kids can safely do. For our Boeuf Bourguignon, I had my son do a ton of peeling, and slicing of vegetables. This allowed me to prepare the meat, and gave him a sense of being really involved. He also did a lot of mixing, and combining of ingredients. Kids love to combine ingredients.
Make Cooking an Adventure
My takeaway over the last few years is that cooking can actually be fun, contrary to what I used to think. Moreover, it’s a great way into another culture–it’s perhaps the most accessible foray into expanding horizons. I love to go to markets in small towns in Europe to get ingredients. I know it sounds sort of dweeby, but that’s always been on my list of things to do in Italy, France, even England. I definitely want to pass this concept along to my kids because I think it’s something that never gets old.
But I will admit that cooking can be tough. It is time-consuming to say the least. If you are trying to plan out everything on your own it can be a ton of work and prep. You can end up with ingredients you don’t use all of, and it may end up costing as much as if you just let a restaurant do the cooking.
But if you leverage some of the tools in this post you can have some pretty memorable evenings with your kids. I also recommend having them help on more simple, mid-week meals if you will. For instance, I have my son making the homemade pizza (dough from Whole Foods) on his own. He likes feeling like a pizza maker ever since we ate several nights at a wood-fired joint last year. It’s less work for me, and I don’t mind cleaning up a bit of flour if it gets a bit messy. If you can get them cooking the simple meals, you can build up to a more complex meal.
Anyway, I look forward to posting more about the meals we will eat on the road. This should be adventurous to say the least. Thanks for reading.