Encouraging children to take a more active role in choosing, preparing and cooking simple meals can help them eat a wider variety of foods.
It’s a fun way to introduce new ingredients, and encourages little ones to explore unknown tastes, smells or textures.
While you’re cooking, let your child hold the ingredients, talk about where they came from and discuss how you think the recipe will turn out.
The more familiar children are with ingredients and the more they feel involved in the process, the more likely they are to eat the food at the end.
Cooking can also be a time for other learning: try reading the numbers in the recipe and on the scales together for some early maths practise, or encourage older ones to estimate what might be ‘too little’ or ‘too much’ as you’re weighing things out.
There’s no escaping the fact that cooking and baking with kids is going to be messy, so get organised before you start (and let go of any dreams of keeping the kitchen clean and tidy!)
- Have old newspapers at the ready to cover anything and everything – mess can then easily be scooped up afterwards.
- Use old, baggy shirts to cover your child’s clothes.
- Give them a larger-than-needed bowl for stirring the mixture to reduce splashing and spills.
- Cover your recipe book in plastic if you’re worried about it getting damaged.
- Allow double the time you think you’ll need for the recipe – give children plenty of time to explore all the ingredients (and the equipment) before you start.
- If you’ve got more than one child, think ahead about who can do which tasks to avoid arguments.
Get your child involved…
Try to involve your little one in every stage of the process, from choosing what to make to cleaning up afterwards.
Teach them about kitchen safety as you go – remind them about hot ovens and hobs and show them how you use the utensils safely.
Let them help with the safer jobs like sieving, mixing and whisking and practise cutting through things (like pastry) with a plastic play knife, or safety scissors.
Recipe idea: chocolate crispy cakes
If you’re looking for an easy place to start, why not try making this old favourite together!
To make about 12 crispies, you will need:
- about 100g of chocolate
- 50g of butter
- 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
- 100g of cornflakes or puffed rice cereal
Melt the chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave, then add the butter and syrup – then get your child to start stirring the mixture while you give them the cereal to add gradually.
Judge between you when you’ve added the right amount. You want to add just enough that every flake or bit of puffed rice is well covered in chocolate.
Help your little one to spoon the chocolate crispy mixture into paper cases.
If you’re feeling creative, your child could add small sweets or raisins to the top of each cake before they set.
Understanding the correspondence between the number of cakes and the number of toppings needed is a really useful skill for early maths.
Leave the cakes to set, then enjoy!
For more child-friendly recipes, why not watch I Can Cook on CBeebies and explore the show’s recipes on BBC Food? There are lots of easy and creative dishes to make with your kids, as well as some helpful songs to remind them of kitchen routines like washing hands and, of course, washing up afterwards!
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