Set aside a special time.
Cooking with your little one when you’re trying to get Monday night’s dinner on the table is a recipe for disaster. Kids aren’t known for their efficiency, so you may wind up rushing them along or getting frustrated if they’re not moving fast enough. Instead, select a time to cook with them that feels relaxed—like a lazy Saturday morning breakfast or a Sunday afternoon baking project.
Pick the right recipe.
Prep work tends to be the most fun for kids. “Look for high-prep, low-heat recipes with simple ingredients,” says Julian Frederick, the junior chef behind Step Stool Chef, which offers virtual cooking classes for kids. Doing things like smashing avocados into guacamole, washing lettuce in a salad spinner, and shredding cooked chicken is more fun than standing at a hot stove with you hovering over them.
Don’t stress about the mess.
There are going to be spills, schmears, and crumbs. Embrace it! “Even when I get stressed about the cleanup, letting my kids create a mess makes cooking together more fun,” says Mattie James, a food and lifestyle blogger. “Kids are more willing to try something new when you’re not yelling at them to keep everything neat. Plus, those are when the best laughs and memorable moments happen.”
Getting your kiddo involved in the decision-making process lets them express their creativity. For example, allow them to pick which pasta shape you use. If you have stubborn or picky eaters, this can also be a great way to get them excited about what they’re eating. A kid who shies away from veggies is more likely to eat salad if he has fun putting it together or making the dressing.
Interview by Bethany Heitman; Photography by Christian Cassiel