Kids in the Kitchen – How to Involve Small Children with Cooking During the Holidays
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If you’re like me, your childhood memories of the holidays center upon time spent with family eating a special meal. We usually did things potluck style with everyone bringing a dish (or two) to share. I grew up in a family of cooks and bakers, so our holiday meals were always particularly delicious and there were many “ooooh” and “ahhh” dishes to devour as we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.
Food has a way of bringing us together.
More than anything, I want to pass on this family food culture to my little ones. In my opinion, cooking and baking are important life skills, but food is also an important part of our family history. I don’t want to see our family traditions lost to time. Cooking is part of who we are, and I want to teach my children about the family they are a part of.
When my children were infants, they never liked to be put down. I wore both my children using a soft buckle baby carrier. (How else could I get anything done?!) I cooked many a meal with my children in the carrier. As I cooked, I explained what I was doing to the child comfortably strapped to me.
We reviewed colors as I handled various foods. We talked about heat (“Ouch! That’s hot. No touch.”) We talked about where our food comes from and growing plants from seeds. I shared the names of different tools used in cooking, as well as safety procedures we follow when working in a kitchen.
What’s the number one rule of baking?
ALWAYS wash your hands before you start!
If you could be a fly on the wall in my home, you would know that I am ALWAYS talking and ALWAYS teaching.
For some people, it can be hard to know where to start in the kitchen with your little ones. A kitchen can be a very dangerous place with hot stoves, hot ovens and sharp knives and peelers. EEK! It can feel so stressful and overwhelming to have kids in the kitchen.
So, to help ease your stress and give you a place to begin including your children in your kitchen projects, I’ve compiled a list of jobs that are suitable for even the young toddlers in your home. (Let’s be honest, they’re probably already in the kitchen hanging on to your pantleg even if you aren’t already giving them jobs to do!)
Dressing for the Job – Kids in the Kitchen
If you want, you can get your child dressed up for the job of being in the kitchen with a cute, child-sized apron. Obviously, this is totally optional!
Both of my kids have aprons and they look adorable in them! An apron helps protect your child’s clothes from the inevitable mess that comes from having kids in the kitchen. I love using the kids aprons around the holidays.
Something about being in aprons in the kitchen with my children baking holiday pies and cookies just makes my heart happy!
Child Safety In the Kitchen
There is a wonderful product that exists that allows your child to be in the kitchen with a greatly reduced chance of falling. This step stool with a safety rail helps to bring your child up to the height of the counter while providing rails on all sides to prevent falls and give you ease of mind as you spend quality time with your child in the kitchen.
I also love this option, labeled as a “Toddler Tower”, it features and adjustable platform so it can change as your child grows.
We’ve had some close calls with children not paying attention on stools or dining chairs. Just be sure not to leave a child unattended on a stool at the counter or on a dinning chair in case of a slip or fall. I take my kids off of their stool or chair if I have to walk away for a second.
Adult supervision is required when young kids are in the kitchen. Safety is extremely important to keep in mind when working in a kitchen!
Where to Start – Jobs for Kids in the Kitchen
Washing Beans – Really, washing or rinsing any canned item or fresh produce is a perfect job to do side by side with your children. It’s an important job that needs done. So why not let them help.
Rinsing Cans – Once a canned item is used, let your child clean it out so that it’s ready for recycling. (Just be sure there are no sharp parts and don’t encourage your child to put their hands inside)
Gathering Ingredients – This task allows your child to work on identifying ingredients but it also is a great way to show your child that print has meaning. You can show them the recipe and point out the ingredients to gather. Point to the labels on the ingredients, showing them where it says salt, baking soda, baking powder, etc.
Dumping and Mixing Ingredients – Before your child is ready to actually measure ingredients themselves, you can let them enjoy the task of dumping.
Cutting Butter – I don’t know about you, but I much prefer my little one learning knife skills with a butter knife. What better thing is there to cut with a butter knife than butter?!
Chopping Soft Nuts – Instead of taking a faster route to cut up nuts for a salad or pecan pie, let your child use a butter knife to chop your pecans! Pecans are soft enough to cut using a butter knife and this activity will take them a good long while. At the desert table you then have an opportunity to dote on your child, telling everyone who passes “Guess who cut up ALL the pecans for the pecan pie?”
Cracking Eggs – This one you will want to hold out on teaching your child to crack eggs until they are slightly older, but probably not as old as you think. My four-year-old started cracking eggs when she was three. It starts out messy, but she is really great at cracking eggs now!
Making Pie Crust – If you want to know what the purpose is for cutting up butter, here it is! We nearly always make our own pie crust and that DEFINITELY includes butter.
Making Crumbles – Another great use for butter cubes is to make a crumble. I let my daughter use a fork or a pastry cutter to blend the ingredients of our crumble together, and honestly, this is a great one to use your hands with as well.
Snapping Green Beans – Even my one-year-old gets in on this kitchen job! We’ve been getting green beans at the farmers market recently and both my children enjoy helping to snap the ends for dinner. Now, the one-year-old usually just snaps the beans in half, so I end up fishing out the halves to snap the ends off, but the smile on his face says it all. TOTALLY worth it!
Rolling/Juicing Lemons, Limes or Oranges – I was always told that you should roll your lemons before you slice and juice them to start the juices flowing and to make it easier to juice. So, I let my kids have fun rolling them around the counter. I don’t know if this is legitimate advice. I am not a food blogger. But, even if it doesn’t help, it certainly doesn’t hurt! And my children love it, so I always have them roll the lemons. They also love trying to juice the lemons.
Crushing Graham Crackers or Peppermint Candy Canes – Doesn’t “crushing” sound like something any child would sign up for?! Never buy pre-crushed anything – let your kids in on the fun of cooking and baking by making it a job for them! I usually give my children cans from the pantry to use for smashing and rolling Graham crackers and candy canes to bits. Just make sure you double bag the candy canes because they tend to rip through the first bag. (Sometimes they rip through the second bag as well.)
Unwrapping Chocolate Kisses – If your family makes peanut butter kiss cookies like my family used to before my son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, then put your child’s tiny fingers to work unwrapping all those chocolate kisses. Reward them in the end with a few kisses to eat if you want!
Tying Garlic Knots or Shaping Bread – Last Thanksgiving, we tried out a new garlic knots recipe and my daughter loved shaping the knots with us! You could also start a new tradition of making soft pretzels instead of dinner rolls to share! Yum! I think that’d be delicious.
Any way you slice it (preferably with a butter knife, hehe), there are so many benefits to having kids in the kitchen. From teaching the important skill of cooking and baking to teaching family history. Getting kids in the kitchen early will help set them on a great path of loving to cook and add so much value to their lives.
Baking is also a great way to teach literacy skills, math skills like counting and fractions, as well as cognitive skills as you explain step by step processes and the science behind baking. This amazing skill of cooking and baking opens the door to teaching your child so many other skills in multiple areas of development.
PIN and SHARE this post before you keep reading! With so many ideas and resources of how to get your kids in the kitchen you’ll want to reference back to it again and again!
Holiday Recipes to Try with Kids in the Kitchen
Thanksgiving with Kids in the Kitchen
Thanksgiving is basically a holiday centered upon eating and feasting. The Thanksgiving meal is the center of this holiday. What better time to have your kids in the kitchen than a holiday where it’s all about food?! Enjoy your time together, making memories with your kids in the kitchen!
Recipe Resource for Kids in the Kitchen – Thanksgiving
Pumpkin Pie – The recipe on the side of the can of pumpkin puree is delicious and EASY! You’ll never buy a store bought pumpkin pie ever again. This is the perfect recipe for dumping and stirring.
Pecan Pie – Perfect time to have your child practice their knife skills with a butter knife, chopping pecans for your pie!
Apple Pie – We have a family recipe for an Open Faced Apple Pie which is literally the BEST APPLE PIE in the ENTIRE WORLD!!! I kid you not. You won’t find an easier or more delicious pie. Your child can help in the kitchen by washing the apples and making the crumble for the top of this tasty pie!
Garlic Knots – Shaping dough is a great way to get kids cooking in the kitchen! As long as you’re not feeling too picky about making the end product perfect, have your child shape their own garlic knot. We made these last Thanksgiving instead of rolls and they were a hit with my family!
Mashed Potatoes – MASHED potatoes, need I say more? Mashing and smashing is a fun, easy way to get your kids in the kitchen. While your kids are young, grab a potato masher and let them get in there smashing away! They’ll be so proud when everyone is complimenting the mashed potatoes, knowing they had a hand in making them!
Christmas Baking With Kids in the Kitchen
Christmas and baking just go together, if you ask me! It’s the only time of year I make 5 different kinds of cookies all at once and give them away as gifts. Mmmm ’tis the season for cookies!
Kids can help in the process of making the cookie batter, rolling the dough into balls and then packing the cookies into tins to give as gifts! With so many cookies to be made, it’s good to get an assembly line system going. Getting the kids in the kitchen will help create a team feel to the process and including them will build their confidence as you make priceless family memories working together.
Recipe Resources for Kids in the Kitchen – Christmas
No Bake Cookies – Recipe Pictured above from an old family cookbook. They were referred to as “Boiled Cookies” which I kind of love.
White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies – We tested out this recipe last year. After my son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, we needed to replace our traditional peanut butter kiss cookies, and these cookies DEFINITELY were a hit. As my daughter would say, “New family favorite!”
This is a good recipe for kids to be in the kitchen helping with because it involves crushing candy canes. Crushing and kids just go together!
White Chocolate Peppermint Mousse Pie – Such a simple recipe and so delicious! Instant classic at our house!
Rice Krispie Treats (Gluten free option) – The recipe on the side of the marshmallows works perfectly, no need to look further. Rice Krispie Treats are impossibly easy to make and take barely any time at all to assemble. A great way to start kids in the kitchen for sure!
**If you’re feeling fancy you can do a drizzle of chocolate and some Christmas sprinkles on top to make them extra special for the holiday!**
Additional Resources for Kids in the Kitchen
Raddish Kids Cooking Club is a FANTASTIC resources for getting recipes and tools to encourage children in the kitchen! It is a monthly subscription that my daughter has been a part of for the past year. Your child receives an apron and a small binder at the start of their subscription that will be where they collect recipe cards and iron on patches each month.
You get three new recipe cards, a new cooking tool and a patch each month along with a grocery list and a few games and little lesson pertaining to the theme for that month.
Kids Cook Books we own and LOVE: “Kids Cooking Tasty Recipes with Step-by-Step Photos“ and “The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs.” Both of these books have been fantastic resources for finding recipes for my kids.
As a mom, I LOVE to learn and grow side-by-side with my children. I love to see them full of joy as they explore new things. I love teaching them about things that matter in practical ways. Learning should be fun! What you’re teaching should be IMPORTANT with real life applications. Cooking is important AND fun!
Learning to cook not only teaches your child an extremely important life skill, but gives your child an opportunity to feel pride in their abilities. Everyone will be impressed when they’re told your child was helping in the kitchen. Your child’s eyes will light up when people are complimenting the food they had a hand in preparing. What could be better?!
This post gives you all the tools you need to get your child in the kitchen. I can’t wait to see what you and your child cook up! Three cheers for kids in the kitchen!!
Comment below with what your child is up to in the kitchen! I’d love to hear from you!
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