With families at home while we shelter in place, those with kiddos need plenty of simple, low- or no-mess activities to keep them busy and engaged. Cooking with kids can fill that need and teach important life skills. We recognize there is lots going on right now simply trying to keep your life in order—so how do you cook with your kids without it feeling like more work than you’ve already got on your plate? Using tips and activities will keep kids engaged in the kitchen with more fun and less stress.
Play a game of Chopped at home.
This is a pretty easy “game” to set up for your kids. Some kitchen skills are nice to have, but as long as you provide supervision, your kids will do great. Watching an episode or two of the TV show might help, too
1. Prepare the baskets.
You can use something as simple as plastic Tupperware. Place the same three ingredients in each one. If there are items that need to be cooked, go ahead and cook them yourself ahead of time. This simplifies the game and makes it just a bit safer for kids. Think of ingredients that are in different food categories, that might complement one another, but that are also distinctly different. The TV show uses vastly different ingredients to increase the challenge. You can do the same, depending on your kids’ skill level.
Here are some ideas of what you could include:
-a rice cake, an orange, banana chips
-a slice of bread, a hunk of cheddar, a hard cooked egg
-cooked noodles, salad greens, a piece of fruit
-a tortilla, cooked or grilled meat, some type of healthy dip like guacamole or hummus
-a hamburger bun, nut or seed butter, a favorite veggie
There really is no end to the combinations that you could create.
2. Prepare the pantry
Set everyone up at the kitchen table. Place a limited “pantry” of extra ingredients that they could supplement their dishes with. Try throwing in ingredients that were clearly “healthy” like fresh spinach and tomatoes, making good choices available. Depending on your kids’ kitchen skills, you can provide the items pre-prepped or allow them the opportunity to make them themselves.
Pantry items might include:
-vinegar, olive oil, salad dressing, hummus, guacamole
-nut butter, seed butter, Nutella
-fruits and vegetables
-cheeses in various forms: shredded, cubed, sliced
-proteins like cooked chicken, hard cooked eggs, cooked beans
-other condiments like mustard, ketchup, pickles, olives
3. Provide some kitchen tools.
To keep things safe, regular table knives should be all your children need for the ingredients provided. In addition to cutting utensils, provide a cheese grater, an egg slicer, cutting boards, and other small gadgets like a citrus reamer. Allow them to go get something else that they needed or to use the toaster oven or microwave.
4. Take a step back.
Take a step back and let your kids do in the kitchen, let their imaginations run wild! If your kids have been helping or observing you in the kitchen, my guess is that they know more than you think they do!
Let Kids Lead
Kids are more likely to eat well when they’ve had a hand in bringing their food to the table. Letting kids choose which recipes they’d like to make, or which ingredients they’d like to cook with, is empowering and a positive way to engage them. Preschoolers can help pick breakfast ideas for your meal plan for the week, or choose something they’d like to prepare for snack time. Simple recipes are key here, too.
Cooking can provide teachable moments, especially when you choose to cook together. Math and science lessons are nestled inside every recipe and can bring joy if you seek them out together.
The most important thing is taking the time and eating together. You can use it as a chance to check in, to ask, ‘How are you feeling?’ It is a stressful time, but it presents us with an opportunity we didn’t have before. Spending more time together as a family is a silver lining in these times!
Posts written by the Team ELM family!