Most children enjoy cooking at home, whether that's pretend cooking or helping do the real thing with you in the kitchen. I was always looking forward to having my son 'help' with cooking. It was one of those activities that I wasn't sure when they are old enough to try but when I did try with him, probably when he was around 18 months, he immediately took to it. It continues to be one of his favourite things to do. With a mum who enjoys cooking, he's used to seeing me do it a lot so I'm sure that made him want to get stuck in!
Even when he is not helping out, my son likes to see what I'm doing in the kitchen. He names off the vegetables I'm chopping up and wants to see what's cooking in the saucepans. I talk to him about what I'm preparing and cooking and often pick him up so he can do a quick stir of something.
I came across a blog post called 10 ways to get small children involved in the kitchen that I thought had some good ideas to encourage your children to help out, learn and develop an interest in cooking. A couple of my favourites from the suggestions provided are to let them help tear or break food into pieces and let them rinse or wash fruits and vegetables. As with most of the ideas, these are simple, safe tasks but will make your child feel like they are being genuinely useful in the kitchen.
One difficulty some people might have with letting their young children help in the kitchen is how to get them to reach the work surface. We have a couple of tall breakfast stools so we sit our son on one of those which brings him up to a suitable height. You could have them stand on a chair like the girl pictured above. Another option is to bring a small table into the kitchen and put the mixing bowl, vegetables or whatever you are cooking with down on the small table in easy reach for them. I guess sitting them in their high-chair to do something like tear up food would also work well.
Expect some mess, some spillages and mishaps but accept these as part of the fun for your child and part of the learning process in the kitchen. Cooking is a wonderful way to do something together, for your child to do activities they enjoy like tipping, pouring, sorting, to experience different textures, develop their hand-eye coordination and more!
What are some of the favourite tasks your children like doing in the kitchen? Do you have any additional ideas to share for simple ways young children can help out?