Are you the only one in the kitchen when it's time to make dinner? Coax your kids into learning more about making meals with these ideas from Mary Spencer, a culinary instructor who does hands-on and demonstration classes at Taste: A Cook's Place at Epiphany Kitchens in Northville.
Teach them to enjoy food. "If you can get kids over the battle of just liking chicken tenders and being willing to try new foods, it sparks an interest in them to make something." Maybe have a "new food night" once a week where you try a new-to-your-child food so it becomes a habit. You may have a better chance of success if you mix the new food with one of your kids' favorites. For example, if they love chicken nuggets dipped in ketchup, offer other foods they can dip like bell pepper or cucumber slices.
Let them get their hands dirty. Spencer encouraged her younger daughter, Sammy, to play around with ingredients and come up with her own recipes. "I would let her use flour and water and simple ingredients and mix up her own dough," says Spencer. "She'd make these little pizzas, sometimes they were good and other times not so much but she learned to enjoy it." Now grown, Sammy, age 18, helps her mom whenever possible with her cooking classes.
Find small tasks they can do to help prepare dinner. The more your kids work alongside you to prepare meals, the more comfortable they'll become in the kitchen. Try to think of small jobs your child can do to assist you like getting items out of the refrigerator, setting the table, or putting the food on plates. "Even washing the dishes can be fun for kids," notes Spencer.
Enlist them to pick out ingredients. When you shop for meals, bring your child along and involve them in selecting ingredients – this can be especially easy when it comes to produce. You might tell them how many tomatoes, lettuce heads, peaches or onions you need and then have them retrieve the items. When you're cooking, have them help you prep the items by washing and drying them.
Have a demonstration night. Research kid-friendly recipes online (check out Metro Parent's Crumbs blog for some great ideas!) together and then prepare a few of them with your child for a cooking-themed activity night where he or she can invite friends. Maybe your child can show his friends how to make spaghetti or maybe she can have each of her friends in charge of one part of the meal and then bring it all together at the end, like a taco salad. Spencer, who also does cooking-themed birthday parties for kids, believes most kids like the chance to get in the kitchen, they just need a little encouragement.