The struggle to get your children cooking is real. Heck, the struggle to get your children to eat can be real!
I never had a desire to learn to cook. Still to this day I struggle with cooking.
Once when making burritos, I didn’t have any taco seasoning for the meat. So, I figured seasoning salt is the same color and probably the main ingredient in taco seasoning (logical, right?) So I put in an EQUAL amount of seasoning salt in the taco meat that I would normally put in of the taco seasoning. Yep, a ¼ cup of seasoning salt in one pound of meat. And, no other seasonings at all…you can imagine how that tasted!
I have gotten better since then – I feed my children after all!
Cooking (along with meal planning, shopping, budgeting) is a skill we as parents can teach our children. Once you figure out how to get your children cooking you can have fun while at it…even if you don’t like cooking yourself!
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Benefits to Get Your Children Cooking
- Children will eat so much more when it’s something they have made. My son will eat absolutely zero vegetables but because each of the meals they prepare must include a side dish of fruit or veggies, he will eat what he makes. Plus, it cracks me up how delicious their own food always is to them! They naturally eat more. If I would have served it, they may not have eaten!
- Since I also take them to the store to buy the ingredients we naturally discuss math and budgeting. If a recipe calls for an odd ingredient that is too expensive, we will discuss how I cannot afford it and what we can do to substitute for it. There have also been times when we only went to the store for the meal my child is making. In those cases, we were really able to discuss how much their meal costs per person.
- And of course, it’s impossible to cook without using math. Usually measuring cups and telling your child to add 1/3 cup or 2/3 cups is also a good time to reinforce to them how math really is used in daily life.
How I got My Children Cooking Each Month
I started off by adding cooking once per month to their chores. This was an incentive for them and depending on how much they did themselves and how fully they cleaned up after determined their pay. However, they have gained such pride over providing a meal for the family that they no longer ask how much money they earn! In fact, they usually ask if they can cook a meal more than once per month.
- Each child is responsible for cooking a full menu: an appetizer, side dish, main dish, and dessert. If we are lucky, then it lasts more than one night!
- There is a shelf with cookbooks they can hunt through to find the perfect recipes.
- They are responsible for creating a shopping list. This means they have to look through the cupboards and see what we already have. Depending on their age, I usually have to help with this (margarine vs butter, for example, is confusing no matter the age).
- We go shopping together. I let the child take their own list and find the ingredients and mark them off as we go. Yes, this takes considerably more time. But I look at this as quality time spent together and skills children need to be taught.
- Once home, the “cook” takes out the ingredients they need and we discuss the order in which the meal should be made and what they can make on their own or what they will need help with. As much as possible I try to leave the kitchen. Even though I want to oversee the cracking of eggs and measuring of flour with the proper ¼ cup, what’s really important is that I’m there for the oven or knife. Of course, this totally depends on your child’s skills and age!
- Usually, we have the sibling set the table and the cook cleans up after dinner. The kids are so proud of their creations they always want to invite someone else over to eat with us!
Menu Suggestions when you Get the Kids Cooking
For the better part of a year, the kids loved cooking out of Disney’s Family Cookbook: Irresistible Recipes for You and Your Kids. Although they needed help with the majority of the recipes, the kids had a lot of fun with this one!
One of my son’s favorite way to come up with dinner ideas is to go the store when they are having samples and formulate his menu that way.
There are usually coupons for the food they are sampling or its on sale that day. Plus its super fun for him which is all part of the process! Last month he tried some seasoned pork chops as samples and decided to make those for us the following month. He had to go home and round out the menu but it turned out well!
Sometimes kids choose to cook dishes I would never cook! I have to keep my mouth shut when they are deciding on the menu. My daughter often wants to make an “artistic” dish like a mouse made of apricots. What’s important is that they enjoy the process, pride in the end product and enjoy having everyone eat something they made.
Using the Days of the Year to Get Your Children Cooking
Another way to introduce a habit of cooking is to have theme nights and involve the kids. Have a pizza night on National Pizza Day. Kids really get into to these “theme” days! Head over to my free resource library and download each month’s calendar to make the ordinary days extraordinary!