Pick their favourite dish
One of the best ways to get kids feeling excited about cooking is to pick foods and meals they really love. If your child’s favourite dish is spaghetti bolognese, you are far more likely to be greeted with enthusiasm if you start out by teaching them to make this Italian classic. It’s a great way to show them the range of fresh ingredients and vegetables which make up their favourite dinner.
With any task for children in the kitchen, it’s best to start simple to spark their interest and not overwhelm them. I found it works well to demonstrate a task first and then let them help you, until they are ready to try themselves. They will love feeling like they are responsible and truly contributing, and this will make them feel very proud when the meal is served up. Be sure to comment on the good job they’ve done as well.
Choose age-appropriate tasks
How involved your little one can be will depend on their age, but fear not, even the smallest of hands can be put to use in the kitchen. My number one tip for keeping any child engaged is to keep their hands busy – they won’t want to watch you cook and not touch anything, otherwise they will become bored and uninterested.
If you are cooking with young children – mixing dry ingredients, decorating baked goods, washing fruits and vegetables, sprinkling cheese and turning recipe pages are easy ways to include them. For older children, tasks such as cracking eggs, whisking a sauce, chopping veggies (teach them how to do this safely) or spooning batter into trays are great ways to teach and engage them.
I have found the Philips Pasta Noodle Maker is a great appliance for cooking with kids as it allows them to watch ingredients transform into food they love before their eyes. You can also add bright, vegetable juices to create fun and colourful pasta, with the added benefit of also being healthy.
Prepare for mess
Cooking is a messy business, especially when kids are involved. You can exercise a bit of damage control by putting a plastic tablecloth down on the floor, popping aprons on the kids or dressing in old clothes, but ultimately you'll all have more fun if you embrace the mess and then clean up together at the end.
Create a veggie patch
Growing ingredients is an exciting process for children. Each day they can watch the progression of a plant or veggie patch, whilst learning about all of the environmental factors needed to help them flourish. While not everyone has the garden space, there are some quick and full proof ways to grow your own ingredients, such as a small herb garden with basil, parsley, mint and coriander plants, which can be picked and placed decoratively on top of a meal.