I have been cooking and baking with my kids since they were a little over a year old. My son who’s almost six years old has been cooking and baking with me for years.
And I tell ya the reality of cooking with little kids is nowhere near the photos you see in magazines and videos you see online of beautiful little children with their cutesy little apron and superb focus and chopping skills that could put Iron Chef contestants to shame.
I can only imagine the number of takes it took to get that perfect shot, the messy floor they cropped out of the photo, the tantrums and meltdowns because they wanted to get on top of the kitchen table and do everything themselves.
Behind the beautiful smiles of the cooking tots you see in magazines is a mother cleaning up after the mess and at the end of her wits because the kids are taking forever to peel a potato. That’s if they can even with their constant bickering. Fighting over a potato, arguing over who gets to sift the flour first is all too common when you let kids in the kitchen.
Here are some untold truths about cooking with children, that TV shows and commercials don’t tell you about.
IT TAKES TWICE AS MUCH TIME TO COOK OR BAKE SOMETHING IF YOU DO IT WITH CHILDREN
If a basic chocolate chip cookie takes 40 minutes to make, you’ll need over an hour if you plan to bake that with children. Ofcourse they’d want to get into the action and do something instead of just watching you and eating the samples. So you assign them a task like say sifting flour and you’ll have to be prepared to watch tiny fingers take forever to sift flour while spilling a quarter of your flour all over the table.
IT’S CRAZY MESSY
They’ll have flour, all over the kitchen table and worse, the floor. They spill eggs and vanilla too so you’ll have sticky messy flours all over. When they get too excited they’d beg you to allow them to pour the milk into the mixture and you guessed that right they’d probably spill half of it on the table and eventually down the floor too.
Then they’ll start throwing stuff at each other the moment you turn around to set the oven or heat the pan. Or they’ll start arguing over the tasks when one’s task seems more exciting or fun to do the other would throw a fit and want to do that too.
YOU’LL HAVE ONE TOO MANY BROKEN KITCHEN ITEMS
I’ve lost count of the number of kitchen items my children have broken while cooking or baking. This is why I have given up on buying breakables or glass items for the kitchen. We now use plastic cups and stainless bowls for baking and cooking.
When they fight over an item and decide to pull on it in different directions, you’ll end up with a strainer split in half or a spatula handle with the bottom scrapper missing because the little one got so upset while they were fighting she threw it out the window.
FOOD MIGHT NOT COME OUT THE WAY YOU WANT
We’ve had pancakes with crispy egg shells in it. Or cookies with a piece of carrot.
I’ve made rice cakes with a giant cheese on top and pasta sauce with one too many basil leaves because the little one got carried away.
When you have children in the kitchen you can’t expect your food to come out perfect. You’ll have to learn to “fix” the dish so it comes out edible. Or make do with the outcome as long as it’s still edible or parts of it still are.
WHY BOTHER THEN?
So why don’t I just keep the kids away from the kitchen so I can cook in peace?
Because I believe cooking teaches them skills that will help them in the long run. Instead of parking them in front of the TV while I cook I like to let them help out because I think it’s a fun activity that helps them focus and develop their hand eye coordination.
It teaches them patience, while testing yours. It helps them appreciate the work that goes into every meal. By letting them help out in the kitchen they are introduced to fruits, vegetables, spices and ingredients.
They learn a life skill that they will carry for the rest of their lives. So when they move out and are off to college you can atleast be rest assured that they won’t depend on junk food and fast food all the time because they know how to whip up a meal.