Lots of handy hints and top tips from our lovely readers with kids.
This summer, goodtoknow is all about cooking with kids and who better to ask for helpful advice than the ones in the kitchen doing it? We asked you to send us your top tips for getting creative in the kitchen with your little ones.
It really does seem that mum knows best because you had so many amazing hints and tips click through to see some of best ones here…
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We’ve all been there – flour everywhere but the bowl. Not Lesley Wright though, she has thought of this simple trick to keep the ingredients where they are supposed to be. Her tip is: ‘When first starting to introduce cooking or baking to very young children, I start by giving them single chopstick instead of a wooden spoon as they cannot resist but fling dry or wet ingredients out of the bowl when using a spoon. Instead a single chopstick will be easier to experiment with and help introduce a love of creating wonderful dishes.’
‘My top cooking tip for little ones is to let them get messy and let them learn through experience rather than taking over and doing it for them?,’ says Nancy Bradford and Christine Maitland also lets her little ones get a little sticky in the kitchen because she thinks ‘a happy child is a messy child!”
Amanda Kirkwood encourages her children, ages 8 and 11, to weigh and measure their own ingredients to strengthen their maths skills. Anita Copperthwaite helps her son measure his ingredients also and says that it is important to teach children the dangers of hot ovens and hobs from an early age.
As mother of a 4 and 6 year old, Clare Wilson, says that she has ‘learnt not to underestimate just how much my children can (safely) do in the kitchen. My 4-year-old daughter can make fairy cakes (my 6-year-old son has to break the eggs though – and he does this perfectly) and I only have to deal with weighing things out and putting them in the oven.’
Leanne Bucknall advises that ‘a simple tip but one that is often overlooked, is to make sure you have enough space available. It’s one thing preparing in a foot square space when you’re on your own but you need a lot of room when children are cooking.’
We love Kate‘s tip is to keep things interesting. She says: ‘the best ‘advice’ I can think of for cooking with kids is keep it quick, easy and as interesting as possible. If they are anything like my daughter they lose interest really quickly. Making pancakes is her favourite as its really easy and very quick and then she likes to choose her toppings/fillings and decorate them with all of my cupboard contents.’
Maureen suggests getting the kids kitted out for their new role as cook, ‘chef’s hats always made our little ones feel really like the boss!’ Tracy H has a similar approach when cooking with her little ones. She bought her kids their own little aprons and chefs hats and says that ‘it worked a treat’ with her children.
Vikki Johnston says: ‘(my) top tip for cooking with toddlers- make sure they’re naked! Saves on the washing afterwards.’
Here is one we hadn’t thought of before but think is great. Lydia56 gives her kids something to work towards and ‘enters their cooking into local shows. It gives them no end of confidence and also helps them to want to do more.’
We think Debby Brown‘s tip is a great idea. She says that, ‘letting little ones choose the decorations and asking them to pick out a certain number and certain colour is a good way of involving them and making learning fun at the same time. For example, decorating cupcakes, I might ask them to count four red sweets for each cake. This technique can be used when making a few batches with slightly older kids as you can include times tables and other maths too (i.e. if we put three red and three yellow sweets on each of the 12 cakes how many in total, then how many if we have 3 batches of 12 cakes? etc) . And the kids get to eat the sum of their work too as well as being praised for cooking and counting skills – all great to build confidence in the kitchen and in their maths prowess!’
Carla Hovell‘s tip is to engage your child’s tastebuds as well as their skills too: ‘Teaching kids to cook to taste will help them become better cooks. Try recipes which your child can safely taste as they go along. The best cooks are those that can innovate and tweak recipes to their own tastes.’
We received a lovely sentimental tip from Tilly_tup who has,
‘written all of the recipes for the cakes my children and I have made
together and the birthday cakes I have made for the kids in a book. I
think it’s a wonderful thing to pass on to my kids and I hope that one
of them can pass it on to their kids. It has small pictures and recipes
that the kids have written too – lovely memories!’
We had a giggle at Jean Vaughan‘s tactic to get the kids cooking. She says that, ‘When I was a child I was always given cut-off pastry to roll out and make a jam tart which my dad was forced to eat, however grey that pastry was. As a mum, I did the same with both my son and daughter who fed it to their dad. Things have moved on now as my grandson has his own baking set, has his own grey pastry and feeds it to his own despairing dad.’
Denise Walker centres her family’s creativity in the kitchen around a topic. ‘We have cooking projects that go along with a theme, sometimes we pick a letter of the week, holiday, special event, or we just cook for fun,’ she says.
Taking inspiration from the television, Tanelley says that they all get involved in Come Dine With Me style competitions. ‘It’ll amaze you what they can do. My 10 and 12 year olds both cook 3 courses on their own and lay the table with real imagination.’ She says.
Tracy McWhinnie’s son loves helping his grandma with the dinner who, ‘has a plastic lettuce knife that she lets him use to cut mushrooms (with a little bit of help). This will help him develop knife skills without the danger of using a sharp knife.’ Emma Pattison has a similar tip and says that she gives her 5-year-old a butter knife which he uses to cut up soft veg like mushrooms. ‘He doesn’t cut himself and yet feels like he’s a grown up and is helping with the essentials!’
To help her little ones get to know basic recipes Claire Kemp plays a fun game with her children by to ‘guess what mummy forgot to put in the cake mix’.
‘My top tip is use a wipe down apron, it stops any mess getting on their clothes, and you can wipe it down when they are done without having to worry about stains. It’s also really fun for your children to have their own equipment as it makes it really fun for them and helps them to feel involved right from the start.’ Says one of our users, h_igoe.
We think Malc’s top tip is a very sweet one to keep the kids engaged- ‘if you are decorating cakes always make yours look worse than theirs then they will be so proud of theirs!’
As we all know, food isn’t just about the taste so we really think Samantha Andrews‘ tip is a great one. ‘When I bake with my two girls, once they have washed their hands, I let them have fun with the ingredients – they taste them, describe them, feel them, weigh them out. Then we follow the recipe all taking it in turns to read it before we get stuck in making and baking.’
Emma Wolski says: ‘give them someone special to bake for as they will learn the educational value of cookery as well as teaching them a giving nature. I love making cake pops with mine and they go to teachers, their nanny, friends and so on!’
Lily Heary says that it doesn’t matter how good at cooking you are, as ‘they don’t care, all they want is fun making and eating something they never made before!’ She particularly loves spending time with her kids making tasty treats at the weekend.
‘We cover the floor with a large wipeable tablecloth,’ says Wendy Clayton, ‘and then all the equipment and ingredients are placed on it. We sit on it and cream, whisk and stir without the safety issues of standing on chairs at the worktop or table. My granddaughter makes delicious cupcakes this way but the fun bit is the decorating – she does each one individually for each member of the family with the things they like on top.’ Louise Saville did the same thing with her children when they were little so that they could ‘mix their ingredients sitting down.’
Doing something that everyone enjoys can be tricky sometimes but Rebecca Powell says that, ‘cooking is the one activity all three of my kids are guaranteed to want to do, it brings everyone together from my 12 year old son to my two year old daughter. Happy times!’
‘Once my little one has decided, from 2 or 3 recipes, what she wants us to make she helps me gather all the ingredients and tools. Then as our final step, before we begin baking, we fill the sink with soapy, warm water so we can clean up as we go. It’s a game and she loves it!’ This clever tip comes from Shelley Twitchell.
Gailann Houston‘s tip is to ‘teach them that cooking doesn’t begin in the kitchen. Take them to the farm and show them where the eggs, milk etc come from, how butter is made and that you can pick fruit and veg which takes their experience to a new level. The world is their classroom!’
We like this fun way to encourage having fun in the kitchen. Jane Delaney‘s tip is that she ‘plays some of her child’s favourite music in the background. It keeps them energised and they can sing along when helping with the washing up!’
HJennerway suggests: ‘food colouring does wonders to make things fun for kids. It even works for adults!’ Lisa Hutchings does a similar thing with her mini chefs and uses ‘lots of fun, colourful ingredients if possible.’ She also says to: ‘Make it fun, messy and make it a point to sit down and eat what you have made.’
Before letting her little ones loose in the kitchen littlemiss says she ‘likes playing Delia and measuring everything out in little portions before her daughter gets involved.’
Sarah Rayment says to ‘get a kiddie friendly cookbook, such as one of the Annabel Karmel ones and get the kids to choose one recipe that they can either cook or help you cook every week! So when you do the meal plan for the week you ask them to choose one recipe that they are enthusiastic about cooking, from the kiddie recipe book. Then enjoy the time with them preparing, making and eating the meal together!’ Ademola Oresanya and Calais1976 agree that the key is to let the kids choose the recipes themselves.
Where to next?
Read our guide Cooking with kids
Teach them to cook basic cupcakes
Give them delicious and healthy packed lunches