Many of my friends have fond memories of cooking or baking as a child with their mothers and grandmothers. When I was growing up in India however, spending time in the kitchen with little ones was not a thing parents did. So in many ways, I feel like I missed out on a fun childhood experience.
It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why in spite of a busy life, my children and I still frequently find ways to have loads of fun in the kitchen. Not only are we building memories for the long run, but of course, the short term returns are pretty delicious too.
There are many other intrinsic benefits of the time spent in the kitchen with your children. It teaches them to link separate ingredients together and understand how food is made. It’s a fun practice in counting and measuring. It’s a sensory experience that is worth the messiness. It’s an easy way to boost your child’s confidence in the kitchen. It’s a lesson in patience. It’s a fun way to make something to share with others. And of course, it’s a great bonding experience as proved by my friends who shared their baking memories with me.
My cooking and baking rituals have evolved each time I added another little human to my family. I loved the challenge of a complicated recipe before, but now, I look for simpler recipes that are short on steps, but long on deliciousness and fun. And while the age of the child will mostly dictate what tasks they can help with, I firmly believe that one is never too young to participate in the kitchen. For instance, my 2-year-old gets the job of lining the muffin tins, squish strawberries with hands, and adding a dash of colorful sprinkles, while his older two siblings do the complicated tasks of measuring and mixing.
So let’s roll with it why don’t we. Here are some stress-free ideas on how to spend more time in the kitchen with your children:
1. Try not baking
The hot oven or stove is often a point of contention when involving kids in the kitchen. So why not try a no-bake recipe that makes the refrigerator your primary tool of choice. One of my favorite go-tos is an Italian dessert called panna cotta, or “cooked cream”. It is a custard that is set with the help of gelatin instead of eggs and is silky smooth, delicious, and a show stopper when served with mangoes, berries, or even chocolate sauce. For those with dairy sensitivities, I frequently swap the cream with coconut milk for a tropical twist.
2. Get sensory with chocolate truffles
Hands are your best tools as the saying goes, and nowhere is it truer than when in the kitchen with your little ones. Children are such sensory creatures, and one of the best ways to encourage that constructive messiness in the kitchen is by making chocolate truffles. Melting chocolate, making chocolate balls, rolling them in cocoa powder and nuts, are all such fun processes for adults and kids alike. And remember, chocolate truffles make a great gift too.
3. Bake bread
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love bread so why not show them how it is made. While children of all ages would love engaging in a task that is basically like playing with play-dough, for older children, this is an especially great science experiment thanks to the yeast. If you don’t want to bother with the kneading or rising however, you can still bake bread – just try an Irish Soda Bread which is considerably simpler without compromising the flavor and fun.
4. Trust them with harder tasks
As adults, we are so opposed to messiness (definitely more so in the kitchen than the rest of the house). Learn to let go. Don’t freak out when the flour spills, or when the cake batter flies out of the bowl. Praise the effort and concentration that your child is putting into a task. And if you are thinking, well, Chika I definitely allow for a little messiness, then ask yourself, are you letting your child crack an egg? That’s the ultimate test I think, and if the answer is no, then you need to let go a little more.
I have noticed with my own children that when I allow them to participate in the harder tasks, they feel more in on the action and as such, listen better at the instructions (for safety and contamination precautions especially) and enjoy the process even more. Chopping vegetables and fruits is another “grown-up” task that children get excited over. In other words, there is no shame in teaching your children how to do actual jobs and take a bit of the cooking/baking load off your shoulders.
There is a reason why the kitchen is considered the heart of the home. It is not only a source of our sustenance but also a place where we gather and connect to feed our soul. I hope that I have inspired you to make your kitchen a frequent hang-out space in your home too. Not only is the immediate return on your investment solid, but it is also bound to make memories and good habits that will last a lifetime.
BUY THE BOOK
TOYS TO INSPIRE FUN IN THE KITCHEN
Follow Chika’s adventures with her family as she travels around the globe on The Antibland.