We all know that involving kids in cooking is a good idea. After all, it helps with picky eating, it’s good for bonding and it even helps with math and fine motor skills.

But when so many of us are strapped for time, it’s hard enough to get a meal on the table, even without the “helping” hands of our wee ones. Soooooo, here are my top 5 tips to involve your kids in the kitchen, WITHOUT losing your sanity.

1. Give Them Just One Task

The reality is, most young kids don’t have the attention-span to make a full recipe or meal. Rather than expect your child to help with an entire meal, give them just one small, do-able task. This article by a pediatric occupational therapy has some great cooking tasks for kids as young as age 2 and this list has some more suggestions. (Bonus tip: try doing messy activities outside for less stress.)

2. Know Your Own Limits

As parents, we’re often so focused on tasks for ur children, that we forget to think about ourselves in the equation. As one of my chef/mom friends recently posted on Facebook:

Omg, honestly, I can’t stand to bake with them. They’re great at cutting up fruit and veggies and stuff, but I go type A insane when they start bathing themselves in brownie batter. Lol!

Um, yeah. I can totally relate. Since bonding is a main goal of cooking with kids, it’s important that we keep the tasks manageable for ourselves too. If baking with your kids brings out the inner-tigress in you, save that activity until they’re a bit older (or for a time when you don’t care whether or not the brownies will be a major flop … ’cause we all know that’s entirely possible when kids get in the mix!).

3. Involve Them In Making the Foods You Want Them to Eat

Sure, baking with kids can be a fun thing to do. After all, what kid doesn’t like to lick the cookie batter out of the mixing bowl? But the truth is, most kids eat WAY too many sweets and not nearly enough fruits and vegetables. Since involving a child in making a particular food generally means they’ll be more likely to eat that food, invite your kids to help you prepare fruits, vegetables or other foods you want them to eat more of.

 

4. Make It Fun

This is a no-brainer, but cooking should be FUN for everyone involved. Sometimes, you just need to turn something like mundane into a game to have your kids begging to help you out. This ridiculously simple Leafy Greens Washing Machine game has turned my kids into expert produce-washers. 🙂

5. Think Beyond Mealtime

Let’s take a step back for a minute. If our goal in cooking with kids is to give them more hands-on opportunities with food and to bond with them, nobody says that an actual meal needs to come out of it. If cooking with your kids is just too far out of reach for you right now, no worries. You can still accomplish the same goals using science or art. Here are some of my favorite non-cooking activities that still give kids an opportunity to get hands-on with food. And even though “cooking” or “eating” isn’t part of the assignment, I can promise you that my kids always end up gobbling up whatever food we’re experimenting with. Win-win-win.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me….how do you get your kids into the kitchen?

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