Cooking with kids is the key to getting them to eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. But the idea of cooking with kids can send busy parents over the edge. What we need is a simple, easy plan.
Here’s the conundrum. The key to changing the way your family eats is to cook with your kids, not for your kids. But the idea of cooking with kids can be a deal-breaker for parents. We know what we need to do, but we’re not doing it. Because we’re just too busy.
I get it. You’re thinking, “I barely have time to cook dinner at home! How on earth will I find time to cook with my kids? And don’t even get me started on the mess!” I know those excuses well, because I used to make them.
The key is to reframe it. Think of cooking like a craft activity. Here’s how:
Tips for Cooking with Kids Without Losing your Sanity
Step 1: Set aside 30 minutes, once a week.
30 minutes, once a week, is all you need to start moving in the right direction. Dedicate that time to exploring new foods with your kids. This small investment will pay big dividends in the long run.
Step 2: Define cooking broadly
Cooking isn’t just about sautéing onions and chopping veggies. Those 30 minutes can be spent finding new foods at the farmers’ market, or prepping veggies for the week ahead, or planting something in your garden. Each one of those simple activities starts to build a lifetime of healthy habits. Define cooking broadly to give yourself some wiggle room.
Step 3: Think of cooking like a craft activity
In the same way that you would setup play clay, or crayons and paper, setup your cooking project at low kids table or the kitchen table. Give your kids easy access so they can be more independent. Remember, it’s not about the perfect recipe. It’s about exploring and experimenting—together.
Tip: For type-A parents in the crowd (myself included) work over a baking sheet to contain the mess.
Step 4: Don’t push for tasters
The obligatory “no thank you” bite isn’t what you’re after. So don’t push for it. Even if your kids refuse to eat the foods they’ve made, they will have benefitted from the experience of cooking together. That’s the secret sauce. It’s a series of small, positive experiences that you have together as a family that will keep you moving in the right direction—and set your kids up for a lifetime of healthy habits.
When you frame cooking as a craft activity, you and your kids are better able to focus on what’s important: exploring and experimenting together. It’s not about the perfect recipe. It’s about inspiring creativity and confidence in your kids.
Cooking with Kids: Recipes to Get Rolling
Try these easy recipes to get started cooking with your kids, not for your kids.