The best way to teach our children about being healthy eaters is to involve them in the kitchen! That’s right…letting your children be involved with the meals they’re eating teaches them great life skills and gives them some skin in the cooking and eating game!
Cooking With Kids: Creating Life Lessons And Memories
We know, we know…the days are looooong and sometimes, the thought of your 3-year-old throwing flour in the air as you ‘teach’ her how to make a homemade pie crust does not seem appealing. We get it.
But don’t think that cooking with kids means that they have to be involved with every aspect of a meal, or that whatever it is that you’re doing in the kitchen with them has to be an elaborate lesson. Heck, don’t even think that the end-goal has to be a meal you all want to eat, though that would obviously be optimal.
Instead, think of spending time in the kitchen with your kids as an investment in their life lessons and their memories. Think of it as creating neural connections for their sweet little developing brains. Children do their best ‘work’ and growth through using their senses: touching, feeling, smelling, tasting and listening. Teaching them to cook and showing them the way around the kitchen helps them to use all those senses and that’s why kids love being in the kitchen!
When you spend time teaching your kids how to follow (and create) new recipes, you’re investing in positive connections with each other and positive associations with food. This means positive associations with even the foods you don’t think they’ll eat. You’d be surprised how much more willing a 4-year-old is to eat Brussell sprouts when they’ve had a hand washing the sprouts, crinkling the bacon, cutting the onion and pouring the oil and garlic over them before they place the roasting pan in the oven. (It doesn’t hurt that they tasted INCREDIBLE when made that way, but that’s beside the point…)
Cooking with kids is an amazing way to help form positive experiences with fresh foods for kids, and this helps contribute to their overall foundation for good health and nutrition. In showing them from a young age that food is good fuel and can taste delicious, you’re also giving them life skills they will literally be able to use for the rest of their lives.
Reasons You Don’t Want To Cook With Kids
- You don’t want them to try lots of different foods. Think about what you’re doing when you’re cooking dinner. You smell the delicious smells, you nibble hear and you snack there. It’s almost impossible not to. When you involve your children in the process of cooking, you’re helping create an environment they feel free to try and explore in without the pressure that often comes when they’re sitting at the table staring at a plate they’ve been served. When you encourage your children to cook new foods from different cultures with you, you’re offering them the opportunity to grow up as open-minded adults who have really great palates.
- You don’t want them to be healthy. When you cook at home, you are more likely to be healthier and happier. And, when you teach children to cook at home, you’re helping them to be the same. When you let your littles come into the kitchen and be a part of the process from an early age, you’re fostering the natural habit of cooking clean and healthy foods instead of a culture of fast and processed foods. You can talk to your kids about why you choose the foods you do, and what the foods you choose do for your bodies. When my son was 3-years-old, there was a cartoon he watched that taught him that salmon was good brain food. Guess what he wanted all.the.time? Yep. If you don’t want your kids to be healthy, keep them out of the kitchen where they’ll learn the basics of nutrition.
- You don’t want your kids to feel empowered and confident. There’s nothing quite like an 8-year-old wowing their parents with a delicious dinner. It can happen, and you can make it happen if you cook with your kids and show them how to safely use utensils and follow recipes to create delicious dishes is a child who feels confident and starts deciding that he’d rather make his own meals because he does it better than the restaurant! Talk about building self-esteem and confidence!
- You don’t want your children to know real food doesn’t have junk in it. Imagine the surprise your children will have when they learn that peanut butter is really just peanuts…ground into spreadable consistency. No sweeteners needed, no artificial ingredients like the store-bought stuff. Just how nature made it–au natural. Or imagine what your children will think of the ingredients in store-bought bread once they know how to make their own delicious bread? Teaching your kids to cook with you shows them that processed and packaged foods often have so many unnecessary (and bad for you!) ingredients they can avoid with a few minutes of their own in the kitchen. This Thanksgiving, my 8-year-old was worried because we didn’t have whipped cream chargers for our whipped cream dispenser. His mind was BLOWN when we made our own…with organic whipping cream and a little bit of organic sugar and now? He INSISTS we make our own no matter what!
- You don’t want your family to be closer. If you’re all good with the family feels, then by all means…stay out of the kitchen with the kids. But, if you’re interested in making memories with them as you share family recipes and stories that you learned when you were a child with your family kitchen legends, you’re going to want to cook with kids. If you start while kids are young, you’ll have a family tradition that you can carry with you into those awkward teen years when your kids often want very little to do with you. Cooking brings people together in a very intimate way.
What To Look For In The Best Cooking Tools For Kids
You do need to be careful with the cooking tools for kids that you use. No, you don’t have to shield your child from a knife because it has a blade, but you do need to ensure it’s sized appropriately for them; they’re mature enough to use it, and you teach them how to do so.
And you want to make sure that the cooking tools for kids you’re using aren’t any of those cheapo little ‘pretend’ things that are often made with plastic and God-only-knows what other materials. Most manufacturers are not jumping at the bit to make ceramic and glass cooking tools for kids because they don’t want them to get hurt, but the often-toxic plastic is not the answer. Many plastic cooking tools for kids have phthalates, BPA, BPS, PVC, melamine and more. And even if they don’t, there are other issues with some of the ‘replacement’ materials. And if you’re cooking with utensils that have any of those toxic ingredients, they can release toxins in the food you’re cooking when heated. Not good for cooking or in your dishwasher.
Not to mention that plastic is not good for the environment at all.
That’s why we like sustainable products. Products that are made with wood or bamboo are so much more eco-friendly, and they’re much more durable cooking tools for kids because they’re not easily broken or dangerous if they shatter (like glass may).
We also like high-quality stainless utensils. They’re easy to clean, durable and don’t leach any toxins when heated like a plastic. Some with allergies or sensitivities to chromium or nickel may need to be careful, but otherwise, not usually an issue.
And a safer alternative to plastic for kids is food-grade silicone. Now, you have to be sure that your silicone is made with 100% food-grade silicone because some products (typically cheaper) use plastic fillers too. If you can twist or pinch the silicone, it should stay solid in color–no white or lightening. If it does, you probably have something with filler. Silicone is durable for even toddlers, doesn’t off-gas if you heat it, and is super easy to clean. The only thing you need to be careful about is possibly when used in high heat with super fatty foods. It’s not biodegradable, but it is recyclable, and while it may not be what you pick up for your day-to-day cooking, silicone can make you feel a lot safer when cooking with kids.
Stock Up! The Best Cooking Tools For Kids
We love Raddish Subscription Boxes! They’re great ways to start cooking with kids and they’re a great way to build your inventory of cooking tools for kids. Each month, Raddish gives kids different natural cooking tools and activities, right on their door-steps. Kids learn how to make everything from Croque Monsieur to Pad Thai and they also love making the activity that goes along with the meal. Raddish focuses on nurturing healthier eating habits and making fun family memories in the kitchen, and that’s because each box was designed by teachers and chefs. Monthly, they’ll get recipe guides, cooking techniques and tips as well as a shopping list (hello budgeting and grocery shopping skills!), a cool cooking tool, an apron badge and themed bonus recipes, dietary substitutions and games. The prices range between $20-$24 depending on the subscription plan, and we fell in love with February’s kit “Cupid’s Kitchen.”Cupid’s Kitchen will teach your children how to make Hearty Lasagna Soup, Raspberry Love Muffins, Cupid’s Crouton Salad and Chocolate Banana Bites. You’re buying the groceries, so you can make them organic/gluten-free/whatever you need, and your children will be so proud of their culinary delights!
Similar to Raddish, Eat2Explore helps kids extend their palates with different cultures’ foods. They can try Mexican arroz con pollo and Greek Chicken Souvlaki all from the comfort of their kitchen wherever they are. The boxes don’t have perishable products and can be purchased one at a time or through monthly subscription and your kids will get recipes, shopping lists, cooking tools and neat sauces and spices that teach them about different cultures. They’re not just learning how to cook; they’re learning about exploration of other countries with a country sticker, a flag pin and a fun collectible to learn more about the culture of the food they’re cooking.
And since we’re talking about DaTerra Cucina, we also love their Mediterranean Olive Wood kitchen utensils. Perfect to use on all cookware; these are perfect tools for your kids to use when cooking without worry of hurting themselves (or the utensils). Their gorgeous and non-toxic, and can be used for cooking and serving!
One of the first things kids learn to love making in the kitchen is their own smoothies. That’s why we love Everipe. Made by a mom of two boys who needed nutrition boosts, Everipe offers a shelf-stable way of making nutrient-dense smoothies. Why is this important? Because when your kids can make their own delicious smoothies, they learn to love ‘cooking’ for themselves and they’re getting nutrition too!
Everipe uses freeze-dried fruits and superfoods and they’re all clean, plant-based foods with no added sugars or preservatives. Your kids will love adding a favorite milk or even water to their blender with some ice and then voila! A delicious smoothie they made all by themselves! Yay!
Raawrr! These adorable dino-taco holders are a great way to get kiddos involved in creating their own taco creations, and then chowing down like a T-Rex as they take them out! They’re fun and durable, and dishwasher safe. Your kids will want Taco Tuesday every day of the week!
Who said all the cooking had to be done in the kitchen? Kids will LOVE making their own ice cream with the Play Your Way Ice Cream Maker! All they do is add the ingredients and the ice, and then they play. Yes, they play and twenty minutes later? They reward themselves with delicious, homemade ice cream! I scream, you scream, we’ll all scream for this ice cream!
Holy adorable! You’ve never seen such a precious chef, with such a sweet giraffe nuzzling the neck as your little culinary cutie creates masterpieces. Helps keep clothes clean, and let’s be real. Keeps the pictures on point at level fabulous forever!
This 5-piece set is a perfect fit for little hands to measure ingredients. They’re made with heavy-gauge stainless steel and who doesn’t love Le Creuset?
This organic bamboo cutting board is antimicrobial and has antibacterial properties to help keep your kiddos safe in the kitchen. No formaldehyde like other wooden boards, and it’s better for your knives. It’s non-slip so your kiddos will have less difficulty using it and there’s a juice groove for catching liquids. It’s a restaurant-grade board, but still usable for kids.
Perfect for mixing just about anything your little chef can conjure, these stainless bowls are safe and easily cleaned up–the perfect combo for kids! The Cuisinart set of stainless steel mixing bowls come in a set of three with tight-fitting lids for storage.
This balloon whisk from Zyliss is easier for littles to clean up with the open-tip design. Rust-resistant, high-quality, it’s ergonomically designed and comfortable for little hands. They’ll love making their own whipped cream, trust us!
We fell in LOVE with Green Chef. We tried out a 4-person meal plan of two recipes and they were incredible. The best part, though, was that my little chef loved helping make the meals and plating them with me just as much as I loved him cooking with me. The recipes have super easy-to-follow directions and beautiful pictures, but more? They’re full of clean and fresh organic ingredients you can trust.
And oh…worried about the price? Honestly, we budgeted out what we spend on NON-necessary things at our local grocery store (and Target, of course) for meals and food and found we’d actually SAVE money on meals because we’d be getting just what we needed, without all the extra stuff at stores tempting us, and we were WAY more inclined to make healthy and delicious meals with all the planning and shopping delivered right.to.our.door.