Getting Kids in the Kitchen

My kids are always asking to help in the kitchen. And I almost always say ‘no’ or distract them from doing something else. I know that they need to learn some basic cooking skills. I know they should be familiar with how a kitchen works. I know I need to help them to be comfortable in the kitchen for their own good. I really do know how important getting kids in the kitchen is. It’s just they always seem to ask at the worst times.  

Kids Kitchen Play Kitchen Phone
When your daughter calls for takeout from her play kitchen – there might be an issue!

I can come up with all the excuses, but I know I want to make it better. There are so many family traditions that center around the kitchen, I want my kids to be able to be knowledgeable and comfortable there. I needed some advice on making cooking with my kids a reality so I decided to get in touch with my friend Jessica Sweetman.

Chef Jessica Sweetman

Jessica is a professionally educated chef and owner of Experience Cooking. She is also mom to 3-year-old Leland, so I knew she would be the perfect person to talk to about getting kids in the kitchen. I asked a few of my friends what they would want to know from a professional chef and mom to compile a short list of questions that can have us all spending more time helping our kids learn and less time feeling stressed!

My four-year-old is always asking to help in the kitchen – what are some good jobs I can give him that won’t add more stress to dinner prep?  My 3-year-old and I love to make all sorts of things from scratch such as pancakes or waffles. He gets to pour all the measured ingredients into a bowl. Then he whisks everything with a special sized whisk I have for him. He also enjoys making smoothies in the blender (he places all the ingredients in the blender) and pressing all the buttons on all my kitchen equipment. 

Kids in the kitchen cooking

Making dinner is always so hectic in my house, What do you do to prep for the dinner time madness? Due to our schedule, I typically only have 15 minutes to cook each evening. So, I often slow cook meats in the oven. I season the meat, cover it with a lid or foil and throw it in the oven at 300 degrees for 2-3 hours. Then when it’s dinner time, I turn on the broiler, remove the foil/lid, and let the meat sear a bit for a pretty browning. Then, I saute vegetables in olive oil, seasoning with fresh garlic, salt/pepper, balsamic vinegar. This results in a super easy fast meal. 
It is so easy to fall into a rut with kids food, any tips on getting little ones to try dishes that might seem a little exotic to them? I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to eating. I do not offer any other choice but that which I place in front of him. So, it would be his choice to eat it or go without food that evening. For “exotic” things, he is encouraged to try the food and not eat it if it is not to his liking. 
We all know nutrition is important, and that most kids don’t like a lot of vegetables – what do you do to get more veggies in?  You have to start early! If they are used to always having a vegetable on their plate, then they won’t have an issue eating it. Almost every dish my son has contains vegetables. He enjoys quesadillas, so I use a bit of cheese and a lot of finely chopped vegetables. I also add vegetables to all his smoothies. We often do a peanut butter, honey, and banana smoothie with kale or spinach added into it. 
Detroit Moms Blog Kids Kitchen
DMB contributor kitchen helpers
Do you believe in hiding vegetables in food or making it clear to show kids what they are eating? I believe in both! It is important to do the best you can to make sure your child eats vegetables. They need to know and be aware of the importance of vegetables. However, there are many dishes that I make that have vegetables pureed into sauces. I don’t see the need to make an announcement that the vegetables are in there 🙂
What are some pantry/fridge staples that you always have on hand? Butter, heavy cream, olive oil, Italian cheeses, lemons, and most vegetables. For pantry: grains and nuts. Why eat canned foods when you can easily get most of them fresh? 
What is your go-to kids’ meal that you know will be a home run? When pressed for time, I will make him a quesadilla or Mac and Cheese with a vegetable (such as peas) added to the pasta. 
Can you share some ideas for quick and easy meals that are kid friendly and mom friendly at the end of a long crazy day? 
Enchiladas! If you have any leftover meat you can put it inside a tortilla, add chopped veggies (peppers, onions, and/or black beans) then roll it place it on a baking sheet, add some sauce (you can buy prepared enchilada sauces in the grocery store or make your own) and top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and viola! 
Skewers – These are always a hit! You can skewer pieces of chicken or tender beef along with vegetables. Then broil them in the oven or grill them. 
Salmon – Super simple to cook. Add salt and pepper over the top then a light coating of Dijon mustard (or even pesto). Then bake at 450 for 8-10 minutes.
What are some of the most versatile spices or seasonings to have on hand for those of us who might not maintain a fully stocked spice rack? Savory: Salt, Pepper, Oregano and Smoked Paprika. Most others I buy fresh like thyme, rosemary, garlic. Sweet: Cinnamon, Nutmeg.
Kids Kitchen Cookies Oven

Well, that doesn’t seem too hard after all now does it? A lot of the barriers to getting kids in the kitchen can easily be removed with a little planning. It is said that kids are much more likely to eat meals they helped prepare themselves so what are we waiting for?

What does dinner prep look like in your house?  How are you able to get your kids in the kitchen?


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