Cookin' with Kids: How to Not LOSE IT in the Kitchen


Before kids, I had this idealistic vision of what it would be like to cook and bake with my future children. Baking especially is a big deal for me, and throwing kids into the mix seemed so quaint and charming that I couldn’t wait. There would be aprons, flour-covered noses, and licking of beaters. They would have so much fun, and I would relish every minute.

But then kids actually happened, and with it came the wrecking ball of reality. First, there is the mess. Forget flour on noses: they will get all of the ingredients in all of the places. Nothing shall be left untouched with wet, sticky batter and melted chocolate. And you are deathly afraid to let them lick the batters, because they will surely get salmonella poisoning and possibly die because of terrible parenting skills. It all leaves you feeling defeated and angry.

So, some things I have learned over the years that might be helpful to new or struggling culinary parents:

1. Not all kids will enjoy time in the kitchen, no matter how hard you try. Don’t force them if it is not their thing. As they get older that may change, but, if not, do not fret. Just teach them the basics as appropriate, so they can at least be semi self-sufficient. My oldest daughter has minimal interest depending on her mood, and my youngest son was flipping eggs at three years old. Celebrate their diverse interests.

2. When they are at their youngest, and they are, say, helping you stir something on the stovetop, remind them incessantly not to touch the hot parts because their attention spans are annoyingly short. You cannot tell them enough. And do not forget to tell them what they can touch, like the skillet’s handle or the spoon. It really helps them to resist the urge to touch that scalding hot burner to see how hot it really is. Because obviously we were lying when we told them it would burn them. Obviously.

3. Be realistic. Choose things appropriate for their age and your patience level in the moment.  Think ahead, plan it out. When both of my kids are helping, I measure out ingredients then let them take turns dumping them into the bowl; otherwise they will fight like rabid dogs over a bone. Let them stir the batter, if you don’t mind the extra mess (it will NOT all stay in the bowl!).  Otherwise, get out the stand mixer and just let them turn it on. Making cookies? Hand them blobs of dough and let them roll into balls. Sometimes this is all I have them do, and it satisfies them. They feel a sense of accomplishment and it helps their confidence moving forward.

At the end of the day, it’s all about quality time together. Teaching them kitchen skills is invaluable, so make sure that it is a positive experience for both you and your kiddos.