The smallest of hands can be surprisingly good in the kitchen, get those sleeves rolled up for some good cooking fun with your kids.
Most kids love to cook, it's hands on, it's messy and there's plenty of room for creativity, not to mention a sense of achievement at the end. Teach your kids this life skill and you really will set them up for life, combine it with making their meal and you've set them up for the day too. Here are ten tips that'll help you and your kids enjoy cooking together:
1/ Take your time - expect everything to take longer than it usually would so set aside extra time for cooking and be aware, that particularly for younger children, the journey is as much fun as the destination!
2/ Expect a lot of mess - cooking is a messy business and when kids are involved there'll be even more. Exercise a bit of damage control by putting a plastic tablecloth down on the floor or a tray underneath their work station but ultimately you'll all have more fun if you just let the mess happen and then clear up together at the end.
3/ Plan ahead - select an appropriate recipe, one that they'll enjoy and that involves plenty of activities that are suitable for their age. Make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment at the ready. If necessary, do some preparation, before you ask them to join you. Baking is fun but if you need to get the evening meal ready, think about how they might help you to do that.
4/ Get them ready - put them in clothes you don't mind getting dirty (!), put an apron on and tie back long hair.
5/ Teach children about food hygiene - ensure they wash their hands beforehand and in between touching raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
6/ Talk through the recipe - with older children, you can get them to read out the steps beforehand and get out what will be needed, talk through the processes and plan who's going to do what. With younger children, simply explain what you're making and show any pictures to help with understanding and a sense of purpose.
7/ Learning opportunities - as you're cooking, talk about ingredients and their origins, cooking processes and techniques. Cooking can be a great way to learn about science, geography and maths (through weighing) in a practical way. It's good for fine motor skills and coordination too. More about learning through food.
8/ Touching and tasting - this will make the experience more enjoyable for them, encourage more adventurous eating plus it's a good opportunity to teach children which foods are safe to eat raw. Ask them to use a clean spoon to taste, not fingers and stirring spoons (at least not until the end!)
9/ Age and ability - many children's recipes have age guidelines but look at your own child and recognise what they are capable of doing. There are always activities for every child, even if it's just messing around in the sink washing vegetables and plastic containers while grown-ups and older children chop and cook.
10/ Make it fun! Children will learn to love cooking if you relax and have fun with them in the kitchen. If you feel nervous, start with basic recipes, they're still a good learning experience. Only step in when it's absolutely necessary, otherwise let them enjoy and create.
Here are some recipes for you to start with, all simple and written with children of different ages in mind: