When I think about cooking, I get anxious. When I was a kid, I dreaded being a grown up because some day I’d have to cook dinner. Every. Single. Day.
Well, welcome to my life! And yet, I do not want to pass my own anxiety about cooking on to my kids. I want them to enjoy a kid-friendly kitchen that invites them to prepare food with me and to enjoy eating it.
The way our kitchen is set up encourages the kids to join in, and making eating a memorable experience also helps contribute to our kid-friendly kitchen.
Inviting Kids into the Kitchen
First, the kids have to reach the counter. I love our simple but sturdy wooden step stool, but others have sworn by the Learning Tower. See the review at Living Montessori. Now my oldest is tall enough, he does not need the stool anymore.
My preschooler has always loved cracking eggs. Sometimes we have to allow a little mess in order to develop the skills necessary for cooking and enjoying it.
Running the mixer is always fun too.
The kids beg to use pig-shaped spatulas.
Baking cookies is easier with a silicone baking mat on the baking tray.
My older child finds our pasta pot to be an easier way to drain pasta than tipping a pot of water into a strainer. If you aren’t familiar with this, it’s great! When the pasta is finished, simply lift the handles of the pasta pot and let the water drain out in the bottom pot. (Use a pot holder if it is boiling water, though!)
First, we practice pretending to cook in our play kitchen. If you don’t have one, see some ideas for making a play kitchen. I’ve also have to make some homemade play food because our sets just did not come with my son’s favorite! Even when my son was very young, it was fun to pretend to make his favorite food (oatmeal). The table at the playground became our restaurant with wood chip “food.” Our imagination is the only restraint.
Any food can be kid-friendly, though, when we think in kid terms. Inner Child Fun suggests making snacks in kid-friendly portions. See more Simple Tips to Try with Picky Eaters. One commenter suggested renaming tricky foods. For me, as a child, peas were always “green basketballs” and broccoli was “tiny trees.” I have some more ideas to share in the coming weeks, but we call Chicken Parmesan, “Chicken nuggets with cheese and red sauce.”
We learn where our food comes from. No, butter does not grow on a butter tree!
Finally, food delivery can also be fun. We pretend we are at a restaurant and make a menu (more on this soon!). We scribble on the “tablecloth” as we eat. Or, we put the train set on the table and let the train “deliver” our food.
Eating together should also be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Make a dinner conversation jar and talk it up at dinner. No technology!
When we make our meal times a family event, it takes away the anxiety for me. The kids are a part of the chore of preparing the food (it does not feel like a chore if it is fun!). The kids are more likely to eat the food if they were a part of it’s creation. And I can have a pleasant experience, rather than living with anxiety about creating yet another meal.
Our kitchen is not always kid-friendly. But I try. It makes it more friendly for me too.
Get more ideas like this in the Learn with Play book! I wrote two chapters in it.