Dinner time is one of the most important aspects of family time. Most families don’t have the opportunity to share meals together during the day due to several reasons, such as children going to school, parents being at work, and various other commitments. Breakfast time would normally be a suitable time to share a meal, but different members of the family might need to leave home for different reasons at different times.
At dinner time, however, all members of the family are usually back home and no one is in a hurry to go anywhere, so it is the perfect time to share a meal together. It is also a great time to bond with each other and share stories about your day.
Because it is a special mealtime, the meal to be shared is also special and part of the bonding process involves being part of the meal preparation. Kids shouldn’t be left out. It doesn’t matter how old they are, there is always something for everyone to do in the kitchen!
Cooking with Toddlers and Teenagers
When cooking with kids, you need to be mindful of their ages and assign appropriates tasks for each age group.
Toddlers have a different mindset than preteens and teenagers, so you wouldn’t want to approach a teenager in the same way as you would a toddler. Toddlers can be very eager to help out in the kitchen. However, because they are so energetic and like to move from one thing to another quickly, you will need to assign tasks that are fun to do and not time-consuming.
With toddlers, have them do simple tasks such as stirring (not on the stove, unless under supervision), setting the dinner table, rinsing vegetables, etc. Depending on their age and how involved they are in kitchen activities, they can also mash potatoes and tear leaves off vegetables such as lettuce, etc.
Teenagers are more mature and are capable of handling more difficult tasks than younger children. Working with teenagers can be tricky because, at this stage, they want to do “cool stuff” which doesn’t typically involve kitchen tasks and making meals. The best approach to this is to have started involving children in kitchen duties before they become teenagers.
No age is too young to start helping out in the kitchen!
Teenagers can partake in tasks such as using knives to cut vegetables and meat, making simple meals like spaghetti, rolling meatballs, cleaning up after dinner, loading the dishwasher, etc. While cooking, ensure you don’t overcorrect mistakes, rather, encourage and make suggestions. Teenagers are at a critical stage where they want to be independent and need to learn how to be self-confident. Encouraging them while making a meal is a fantastic way to boost their confidence.
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Easiest Meals to Cook With Kids
There are a lot of meals that are quick and easy to make with kids – it doesn’t just have to be chicken nuggets. Cooking meals that are complicated with kids, will make them lose interest faster and will hasten their exit from the kitchen. When cooking with kids, ensure that the meals are quick and easy to make. Try to make it fun and relaxed too.
Some quick and easy meals to cook with kids are:
- Pineapple and Pork Skewers: This meal is extremely easy to make and quite healthy too. Kids will enjoy putting the ingredients together and getting their hands messy while placing the final ingredients on the skewers.
- Simple Stir-Fry: This meal is great for busy nights and still has many components kids will enjoy helping out with. The meal consists of vegetables, prawns, and noodles. A meal everyone will love.
- Spaghetti and Meatballs: A favorite with kids and toddlers (who can often be picky eaters!), spaghetti and meatballs is a quick and easy meal that is packed full of nutrients. Kids will enjoy the processes involved in making this great family meal and getting their hands in the meatball mix.
- Fajitas: Spark their fascination with this Mexican dish. Everyone can be involved in making this family meal. Filling flour wraps with marinated chicken and stir-fried vegetables is always fun and the whole family will enjoy it.
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Kids of different age groups react to chores and tasks in different ways and it all depends on how you present them.
Ensure you keep things fun and light for toddlers and younger children. Keep things to a minimum. For older kids and teenagers, turn tasks into learning opportunities. That way they still feel independent and capable of handling things on their own. This also boosts their self-confidence even outside of the kitchen.
While cooking in the kitchen as an adult, you are able to take precautions unconsciously. However, it is not the same when cooking with kids. Supervision is necessary at all times to ensure they don’t hurt themselves. Some safety tips to always remember are:
- Use mittens or potholders to carry hot items.
- Washing of hands after handling meat and fish.
- Be careful when grating or using sharp tools such as knives and cutters.
- Turn off the stove or oven when not in use.
- Wash hands before cooking.
- Avoid placing plastics on hot surfaces.
- Ask for an adult’s permission before going to cook in the kitchen.
- Listen to instructions.
These are important safety precautions to adhere to. A fun way to keep these reminders fresh would be to have a small hanging board in the kitchen where these kitchen safety tips are written. That way, even toddlers can be reminded of them at all times.
Final Thoughts on Cooking Dinner with Your Kids
Working in the kitchen with kids to make a meal the whole family can enjoy is a wonderful way for all family members to bond and a great way to enjoy family time and also to teach kids how to cook healthy and delicious meals. You can even put on some music you all enjoy for added fun. If you have never cooked meals with your kids, now is a great time to start. No age is too young or too old to start. However, ensure you start small and work your way up!
About the Author
Elizabeth Shields lives in Oklahoma City. She is a writer and mom of two boys with a passion for home design, parenting, and healthy living.