4 Cooking Games for Kids
Get kids involved in the kitchen to teach them valuable skills -- and make dinnertime run more smoothly.
Cooking dinner can be one of the most stressful parts of your day. Just as you take out pots and pans, your kids start to get cranky and hungry, and they want your attention. But you've got a time-consuming meal to prepare, and it's difficult to concentrate on creating a healthy meal for the family when your little ones are underfoot. If your children are old enough to be in the kitchen, teach them the importance of meal preparation with safe and fun cooking games for kids. It'll help the time go by more quickly for all of you.
Rachel Sherwood, a food stylist and author, says that children can start learning about meal prep whenever they begin to show an interest -- the earlier, the better. "The more engaged they are in the process, the more likely they will be to eat it -- and enjoy it," agrees Amanda Mascia, creator of the Emmy Award-winning kids' cooking show The Good Factory.
Here are four cooking games for kids that will help keep them occupied and teach them valuable lessons. Before you get started on the fun, remember to designate a safe play space for your child in an unused corner of the kitchen, or just outside the kitchen where you can still see them at all times.
- Create a Mini-Kitchen
Fill a toy box with items that mimic the tools you're using in the kitchen. Plastic cups, bowls and spoons can help your child to prepare her own make-believe meal alongside you. Using these items can help develop your child's fine motor skills as she mixes, chops and pours. If you're ambitious, construct an oven out of a large cardboard box. Your child can bake an imaginary cake and serve it after dinner.
- Taste Test Snacks
Teach your child about taste, shape and texture by playing a taste testing game with healthy fruits and vegetables. "Make a kids' snack tray and create an assortment of healthy eats," Sherwood recommends. "Cut the foods into fun shapes like 'apple moons,' 'banana wheels,' 'carrot swords,' 'cheese stars,' 'broccoli trees' and 'strawberry hearts.'" Have your child close her eyes and reach out to the tray to choose one item. Let her spend some time feeling the shape to guess what it is. After that, using texture and taste, she can announce what she just ate.
- Make Food Jewelry
All you need to occupy your child while you make dinner is a bowl of cereal and some string! Using breakfast cereal such as Fruit Loops, your child can make colorful necklaces or bracelets by threading some string through the holes. When she's happy with her creation, you can help her tie it off, then she can proudly wear it at the dining table that night. You can also use pasta such as penne, other types of cereal, candy (not too much!) and other foods that have a large hole to loop string through.
- Let Them Be Chef's Assistants
Once your child is old enough, he can help you pour and mix ingredients. Kids that are using utensils can help you prepare softer foods, such as bread and soft fruits and cheeses. Make a game of it (and help them learn) by having your kids calculate the right amount of ingredients to include or by figuring out how much food a recipe will make.
One last thing that cooking with children helps with is setting healthy eating habits. "Childhood obesity is a real threat," Mascia says. "You can help reduce the effects of it on your own children if you teach them how to cook good food from scratch."
If you need help making the right choices for your child, check out these 5 ways to fight childhood obesity at home.
Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.