It’s hard enough making a home-cooked meal night after night. But it's even worse when your children don't like what you make. Why not turn your little critics into connoisseurs by having them help you cook?
Children can help in the kitchen at almost any age, even two-year-olds can stir ingredients. So, how do you convince your children to become chefs?
First they have to want to help, if they think this is a chore they may sulk the entire time. Entice them by promising to make something different and delicious, such as homemade tortillas or baking bread from scratch. If your children don't like to try new things, lead up to different recipes slowly and start by promising to cook one of their favorite meals with their help. You can also make cooking more engaging by having theme nights, such as Mexican Mondays or food from their favorite vacation spot. If you can promise them a tasty meal and a fun afternoon, your kids will be much more willingly to give cooking a chance.
But resist the temptation to bribe them into cooking by having them help you make only sweets. Convincing kids to make brownies is easy as pie, but then they may refuse to help in the kitchen unless there's a possibility for licking cookie dough off of egg-beaters. Not to mention that showing them how to cook nutritious meals can help improve their health.
After you convince your child to try cooking, now you have to make it fun. According to Michelle Stern, owner and founder of What’s Cooking, a successful cooking program for children (www.whatscooking.com), when it comes to getting kids interested in the kitchen, the first thing you need to do is allow them to make choices. Let them find recipes that look interesting and fun to make. Then take a shopping trip together to the local farmer’s market, where they can really touch and feel (and sometimes taste) the ingredients before selecting them.
“Giving kids some control and choices in cooking is a great way to set your child up for success,” says Stern.
By giving them control over small things, such as whether carrots or peas would be better, they'll feel like they're the chef and you're the helper. Not only will they feel important, they'll also be able to see why each step is important and how changing just one ingredient can completely alter the taste.
Stern also points out that discussing recipes with your child and mapping out what you need is also “a great opportunity to practice vocabulary and math skills that they are learning in school.”
The mood you set will help make your children love or hate cooking. Keep a light tone and pick a good time of day to start, if you wait too long your children may start to get hungry, cranky and impatient. And even if your children end up spilling the entire bag of flour on the floor, don't get upset. It's important to keep a fun atmosphere while learning, and children are bound to make mistakes. Instead compliment them on the effort and show them how to fix any problems.
And when your children sit down to the meal, they'll probably eat every bite. They'll feel a sense of pride, and since they know all the ingredients they won't complain about something you left in or out. So even though it may not be a five star dinner, it will feel like one.