Fact: Not every activity you try to do with your kids will be enjoyable, for you or them.
I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years I have tried to do something with Mollie and she is either too young to enjoy it or just not quite ready for it, like the time I took her to the zoo when she was 2 and all she wanted to do was play on the trampoline by the entrance.
Other times she just might not be in the mood and I have tried to enforce some sort of Pinterest Mum craft fiesta on her.
Other times I’m not in the mood and have lost my shit after trying to melt a Cadbury’s Easter egg for 20 minutes to make chocolate covered popcorn only to have it crumble away into burnt dust (first top tip – don’t try to melt Cadbury’s Easter eggs, Nestle’s are good though!).
I wrote a post recently about testing out a cookbook and included photos of Mollie helping to cook. I realise this may have deceived some people into thinking my daughter and I often cook together in some sort of dreamy paradise world, and guys I’m sorry to break it to you but this is not the case!
In fact, that particular cooking episode did go remarkably well, as a few have done lately. But there are plenty of times when it hasn’t gone so well. Luckily for you, I have learned from my mistakes and am here to share with you my top tips for cooking with kids and making it enjoyable!
1. Make sure they are ready
This is not age-related. Your child may be 2 and showing signs of being the next Mary Berry or may be 8, like mine, seen someone make spaghetti tacos on some insane Nickelodeon show and be inspired to trash your kitchen. You might be a fabulous baker and eager to pass this on to your child but if they aren’t ready or interested you are all going to have a stressful time!
Also make sure they are ready on the day. Plan in advance for a day where you have plenty of time. If you or they are not in the mood for it, forget it and do it another day. Don’t attempt to force it if they are tired, too hungry or just grumpy, neither of you will get what you want from the experience.
2. Keep it simple
For your first parent/child cooking experience pick something that involves minimum cooking, maximum fun. Simple treats that are quick and easy to make and eat will definitely hold your little poppet’s interest, otherwise, you find yourself up to your elbows in dough while your child has sloped off to watch the TV. Some good ideas are animal shaped sandwiches using cookie cutters, rice Krispy cakes (or cornflakes, whatever you fancy!) or pitta bread pizzas. Start small and work your way up. Young children have very little patience so if it has to go on the oven for 4 hours you will probably lose their interest.
3. Get them involved
Let them have a flick through a cookbook to choose a recipe or get them their own cookbook. Let them pick the colour icing on the cake. Let them pick an evening meal for you that week. They are much more likely to enjoy the whole experience if they are cooking something they have chosen themselves and they actually want to eat. Just steer them away from the 10 tiered rainbow sponge dip cake and back to the cupcake section!
4. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
I cannot stress to you how important it is to prepare, prepare, prepare. I said it 3 times then so you can see I really mean it. When Mollie was younger I would buy all the ingredients beforehand, weigh them out and put them in little bowls on the dining room table ready to use. Spending an extra 15 minutes doing this will save you stopping halfway through and dragging your sprog to the shop because you just realised someone ate all the chocolate chips!
Now Mollie is older she writes out the shopping list, we go together to get all the items and she weighs them out herself. Don’t get me wrong, we still have disasters, like last week when we forgot to buy the oats for the flapjacks and had to go back to Asda approximately 10 seconds after we got home, in 28-degree heat may I add! But because she was involved she found it funny and we made a joke of who was to blame and all was fine!
5. Don’t stress about the mess!
So they dropped an egg or 2 on the floor, tipped the rice Krispies everywhere or knocked the bowl of flour everywhere, who cares? Just remember the whole experience will probably only last an hour, max, and then you will have your kitchen back to yourself. Yes, you will probably spend the next two weeks stepping on melted chocolate chips but your child will have happy memories of you cooking together and that’s more important.
So there’s 5 of my top tips! If you have any others drop them in my comments or tweet me @tasha_d_86