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Despite the many recent changes in our world, one thing that has stayed consistent is my family’s love of food. As a mom of two teens, I know that my kids won’t be at home forever. If there’s a silver lining to our current situation it’s that staying indoors has given us plenty of family time. Teaching kids to cook is an important life skill that can start now while everyone is home together.
Cooking is a skill that can be taught to kids of all ages. It’s a great way to entice picky eaters to try new things. Plus, it’s a way for older kids to help prepare meals as we all get used to working at home. Regardless if you hate cooking or are a pro, here are 4 tips for teaching kids to cook easy family meals.
4 Tips for Teaching Kids to Cook Easy Family Meals
Make it Easy
Even though I may draw inspiration from the Bon Appetit magazine that arrives at my door and love the challenge of mastering a new cooking technique, keeping it simple is the key to success when cooking with kids.
Take the stress out of teaching kids to cook easy family meals by starting with ingredients that make the task easier.
Refrigerated pasta, and pasta sauces with a packaged salad make a perfect kid-friendly dinner that’s healthy and easy to prepare. Pre-packaged grilled chicken breast strips and already sliced mushrooms are great additions that can add a protein and a veggie without much more work.
Until I master making my own pasta, Three Bridges is my go-to.
This family owned company from California uses 100% natural ingredients in their pasta and sauces. As a farmers’ market fan, I appreciate that they locally source their ingredients whenever possible. Premium, wholesome ingredients also mean I’m not sacrificing my standards for convenience.
Let Them Help Menu Plan
Kids will embrace the challenge of cooking if you involve them in the process but completely open questions like “What do you want to make for dinner tonight?” can be too overwhelming. When given too much of a choice, kids could shut down. They may not know how to respond or could come back with a meal that makes you cringe.
Instead give them a choice between two things, such as making spinach and cheese tortellini or grilled chicken & mozzarella ravioli for dinner. Once they decide between what kind of pasta, you can also let them decide what kind of sauce to have, type of dressing to put on the salad, etc.
Limited choices are empowering to kids but also allow you to maintain control over the meal.
Give Your Kids Age Appropriate Tasks
There is a kitchen task for every age, but the key is knowing what is most age appropriate and letting go of perfection. Here are some age appropriate tasks for each age that make teaching kids how to cook easy family meals manageable.
Nervous about little kids with knives? Instead of handing your preschooler the sharp paring knife from your knife blog, hand them a butter knife instead. Pull a chair up to the kitchen counter, tie an apron around them, and show them how to hold the knife. Then give them a cutting board and a few chicken strips and let them go to work.
Another great task for young kids is using a pair of kid-safe scissors to snip basil. Basil makes a great garnish and all you have to do is wash their scissors with soap and dish detergent and dry them. They’ll get some fine motor practice while snipping herbs that add flavor to your meal!
They can also assist by filling a pot with water.
Young children will love working right beside you! It’s ok that your chicken breast strips aren’t perfectly cut, or the basil isn’t a perfect chiffonade. It’s more important to develop skills and see their pride in helping with the meal.
Kids in grades K-5 can pull out a pot, fill it with water, and can place it on the stove with help.
Older elementary ages can add veggies to a pot or frying pan and try sautéing with a spatula.
Regardless of your child’s age, it’s the perfect time to show them how the stove works but remind them about stove safety!
Engage fluent readers by asking them to read cooking directions. Have them look at the pasta package to figure out how long the pasta should cook and then ask them to set the timer.
Tweens and Teens
Older kids can certainly do all of the above but also turn on the stove, boil the water, and put the pasta inside the pot.
If they’re confident in these skills, it’s time to help them take their skills to the next level. Let them practice their knife skills.
Have them visit the Three Bridges recipes section of their site for inspiration on using their favorite pasta with new ingredients. There are lots of different recipes that creative teens can try to meal offerings for your family.
When cooking with kids, it’s good to let them build on their skills slowly. This helps them increase their confidence in the kitchen and develop skills that they’ll be able to use for life.
Stock Up on Favorites
As grocery stores restock, it’s a great time to pick up items that you can buy now and cook later. When you have the right ingredients on hand, it makes cooking with your kids easier and a is more likely to become a regular occurrence.
Since Three Bridges pastas can be frozen up to 1 month to extend shelf life (except gluten free), I prefer to buy double sets at a time. This ensures I’ll have a set in the fridge and another in the freezer for a later date.
If there is a silver lining to our new normal it’s lots more family time. Seize the time together by teaching kids to cook easy family meals. Making the most of this time together is important so I hope this post has inspired you to get in the kitchen with your kids.