By Emma Thomas – Full-time mum to a one-year-old, part-time blogger and writer, with a background as a Kindy Teacher/Director
Kids in the kitchen – fun, rewarding and at times terrifying! Does the thought of cooking with children fill you with joy or with dread?
I worked as a nanny while studying my Bachelor of Education and always loved baking with the kids I was looking after. We’d drag a chair up to the bench, pick something delicious to make, and work on it together. We had fun, made good food and learnt a lot. When I started teaching Kindergarten I thought I would love cooking with my class, but cooking with a group is a lot trickier! Trying to monitor what everyone was doing, making sure that no one was licking their fingers or sneaking a bite of food was harder than I expected. Over my years teaching I quickly learnt which recipes worked and which were too hard. I still love cooking with children but prefer it with just one or two children in the comfort of my own kitchen.
For babies and toddlers just being in the kitchen with you is enough. My daughter loves to have an empty bowl and a whisk to play with while I’m getting dinner ready and she has started ‘helping’ me unpack the dishwasher. Once children can sit or stand safely at the bench you can get them to start helping by bringing you ingredients, opening packets or stirring the mixture.
There is so much learning that goes on when you let children into the kitchen:
- Connection – Shared activities create time for connection. And food is a great memory maker! I have many memories of cooking with my mum and eating delicious food together.
- Literacy – Reading a recipe is a great early literacy activity. Recipes are written using simple language and follow a step by step procedure.
- Numeracy – Measuring ingredients and following the steps in the recipe are great ways to practise numeracy.
- Motor skills – Filling measuring cups and placing choc chips develops fine motor skills. Carrying heavy items like a full bottle of milk, or mixing the batter works on gross motor skills.
- Following directions – Following directions is a learned skill and one that needs lots of practice! When cooking together your child will get to work on following your instructions as well as the directions in the recipe.
- Hygiene and Safety – on the job learning is the best. Help your children learn to wash their hands, handle knives safely and be sensible with the stovetop and oven.
- Healthy eating – Cooking together is a great time to talk about healthy eating. Try and get your children to help you with all types of cooking, not just making choc chips biscuits!
I’d love to share two of my favourite recipes with you – one for making with a group and one for making with just one or two children.
When cooking with a big group of children you can’t go past pizza!
Give every child a bowl and a pair of (thoroughly washed) scissors and then set them to work chopping the ingredients. You can use ham, salami, capsicum, mushrooms, spring onions, tinned pineapple, etc.
Use bought pizza bases, add pizza sauce, all of the toppings and cover in cheese! Bake at 180°C until the cheese is melted.
I am always astonished at what children will eat when they have made it and it is presented on a pizza base and topped with cheese!
Other great group cooking experiences are:
- Fairy Bread
- Choc balls/Apricot balls (anything made with a tin of sweetened condensed milk and crushed biscuits)
When I’ve got time to cook with just one or two children I love to bake muffins or biscuits! I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to help me in the kitchen. This is my mum’s recipe for Chocanana Muffins. I don’t like bananas and won’t eat anything with banana in it, but I will still eat these because they taste like my childhood!
Mum’s Chocanana Muffins
1 overripe banana
½ cup raw sugar
1 cup wholemeal SR flour
½ cup white SR flour
⅔ cup milk
¼ cup oil
½ cup choc chips
Heat oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl mash banana.
Add sugar and sift in flour.
Lightly beat egg in a cup, add to bowl.
Add milk, oil and choc chips.
Mix until just combined.
Spoon into a muffin tray and bake for around 20 minutes.
I hope this inspires you to give cooking with your kids a try!