Cooking with kids can be fantastic fun but they won’t necessarily know that, especially if their most common experience of the kitchen is watching mum or dad getting hot and bothered.
First, you’ll need to pique their curiosity by exposing them to positive examples of food and cooking. Provide plenty of encouragement when they show some interest, and then get your child off to the best start by providing safe, manageable utensils and equipment.
Ways to encourage kids to cook:
• Play sets: there are some fantastic play sets on the market offering everything from wooden toy fruit and vegetables to fully fitted children’s kitchens with coffee machines, microwaves and pop-up toasters. Imaginative play is an excellent way for your child to engage in food preparation and cooking without the mess.
• Cookbooks: if you get children interested in recipe books from an early age they’ll be less intimidated by the cooking process.
• Cooking websites, apps and games: younger kids will enjoy apps where they can mix ingredients and prepare dishes. Older children will appreciate video recipes and apps that let them ‘run’ a restaurant or bakery. It’s not as good as the real thing, but games can simulate kids’ interest in food.
• Cooking as art: using vegetable slices to create faces on pizza bases, or decorating cupcakes, is fun at any age.
• TV shows: the enthusiasm of many chefs can be compelling and cookery programmes are a way of drawing your child’s attention to sourcing, preparing and cooking food.
• Point out chefs you admire: celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are both family men that are passionate about cooking, provenance and sustainability.
• Restaurants: daunting as this may be, your kids will get used to understanding, and choosing from, a menu. Start with kid-friendly places such as Pizza Express that boast open kitchens so you can show your child how pizza is made from scratch.
• Food-related games: ask your kids to find fruit and vegetables beginning with every letter of the alphabet; or how many types of green vegetables or red fruit there are. To develop their sense of taste, try a blind taste test (this makes a great party game).