It’s no secret that involving kids in the kitchen is a great way to help them develop healthy eating habits, be more adventurous with their food choices and help with their fine motor skills.
But if you’re like me, getting dinner ready without a kid’s “help” is a big enough challenge on it’s own. (Read about one of my dinnertime disaster stories here.) Let’s be real. Involving young kids essentially doubles the time it takes to prepare a meal. And don’t get me started on the mess factor. So while I look forward to the days when my kids can actually, truly help in the kitchen, it’s just not a reality for me on most days.
That said, it’s still important to me that my kids get their little hands dirty in the kitchen. I want them to play with their food, learn what happens when different ingredients are combined, feel the different textures of foods in their different states, as well as practice their stirring and chopping skills.
My solution? Food science! I admit, it’s not a perfect solution since eating their experiments is not allowed. But we are working on a whole lot of other important skills that transfer to food and cooking. And since it’s something my kids like to do every day, it’s a happy way to spend time together in the kitchen, especially on the days when I don’t have the time or patience to involve them in actual mealtime prep.
1. The Classic Volcano Experiment
The first time your child does this classic vinegar + baking soda experiment, the expression on their face is priceless. I admit, the force of the reaction is even more impressive than I remembered.
We started by just combining the ingredients in our kitchen, then we built a volcano with air-dry clay. Next on our list is to make Irish Soda Bread (in which buttermilk replaces the vinegar) to observe how the chemical reaction takes place in an actual food you can eat.
This experiment couldn’t be simpler: have your kid add salt to a half-cup of water, one teaspoon at a time. At first, the salt will dissolve in the water, but when the water can’t hold any more (it’s point of saturation), the salt will sink to the bottom.
It’s ridiculously simple, but great practice for measuring, counting and stirring. I even let my son taste the water after this one.
In this experiment, I let my son use a kid knife to cut celery. He then put water in individual test tubes (small juice glasses also work well), added food coloring and put the celery in. We talked about gardening and how water travels from the roots to the top of the plant. Then we sat and waited…and waited…and waited…and snacked on some celery….then….and waited….and waited….until the top of the celery turned the color of the food dye (about 20 minutes).
This experiment helped my son practice his knife skills and his patience!
In this experiment, we poured a can of clear sparkling water (baking soda with water will also work) into a beaker. Then, I let my son use tweezers to drop the raisins in the water one by one. Sure, tweezers aren’t needed, but it made him feel like a true scientist and helped him work on those fine motor skills.
The bubbles (carbon dioxide) attach to the raisins and eventually cause them to float to the top. Then, once the bubbles pop, they’ll sink again. Voila! Dancing raisins.
What are some other simple (and sane!) ways you get your kids involved in the kitchen?