***BAKE OFF SPOILER ALERT!***
Have you been hooked on the Bake Off? This week was the thrilling final and a great underdog moment for overlooked David.
As the Junior Bake Off starts, many families will be inspired to start cooking together. If you have a budding junior chef in your family, now is the perfect time to get them started.
Becoming confident in the kitchen gives children a sense of pride and ownership in their food and can help them become more adventurous in their food choices. They understand what ingredients to use and where their food comes from.
Let’s look at five simple tips to get started.
1. Kitchen safety
2. Cleaning up
3. Cooking healthy food
4. Start with simple recipes
5. Let them have control in the kitchen
1. Safety First in the Kitchen
Kitchens are full of potential dangers so teach your child a few key safety messages from the start.
· Hands washed before starting
· Tie back hair and wear an apron
· Wear appropriate clothing
· Only use the hob and oven when supervised
· Cut onto a chopping board with fingers out of the way
· Clear up spills straight away
Children are never too young to start preparing food. Think about ways they can safely help you with age-appropriate tasks such as mixing and cracking eggs before moving onto tricky tasks like cutting and grating.
Use Correct Kitchen Tools
Improvising with kitchen equipment rarely works well. You don’t need to equip your kitchen like a Michelin-starred chef but investing on a few basics is worthwhile.
· Mixing bowls
· Tongs, a wooden spoon and spatula
· Set of sharp knives
· Measuring scales and/or cup measures
· Potato masher
· Measuring jug
· Pastry brush
· Sieve and colander
· Chopping board
· Vegetable peeler
· Rolling pin
· Cookie cutters
· Sharp scissors
Keep Your Space Clear
Cooking with kids can easily get out of control. Before you know it, your countertops are piled up with dishes, there’s a spillage on the floor and the sink is piled high. Slow down and take a few minutes in between tasks to clear and tidy as you go.
Work at a Safe Height
Kitchens can be inaccessible for young children. Think about ways they can work safely without teetering on tiptoes to reach.
You can invest in a sturdy step, sometimes called a ‘tot tower’ that won’t topple over mid-bake. If you have limited space, consider cooking whilst sitting at the dining table instead of at the countertop.
Supervise Young Children
It’s easy to get distracted by a phone call or a knock at the door. With young children, it is important to always directly supervise them to avoid accidents when you turn your back.
As your child grows up, think about the amount of supervision they need to stay safe especially when using sharp knives, breakable equipment or the oven, but allow them as much independence as possible.
2. Teach the Art of Cleaning Up
A heap of washing up to tackle ruins the fun of cooking with kids. They do create more mess but can help clean it up.
Before you cook, have a quick tidy to clear the counters. Make sure the dishwasher is empty or you’ve washed up any dishes. This will help you clear up as you go.
When food is in the oven, finish cleaning straight away. Fill the sink with bubbles and get them doing the washing up. They love the fun of water play and it is great for developing their body strength for writing.
3. Cook Nutritious Food
It’s all too easy to bake treats and unhealthy snacks with kids. Whilst there’s a place for these foods, use cooking as a time to help them learn about healthy eating and a balanced diet.
Look for opportunities to include your child in everyday cooking tasks so they see the ingredients that go into simple dishes. Picky eaters are far more likely to eat food they’ve prepared themselves than a dish you’ve made for them.
In the UK, children are consuming around eight extra sugar cubes a day. Look for healthy recipe ideas that have limited amounts of added sugar.
4. Start with Simple Recipes
Don’t feel you have to buy special ingredients to cook with your child at home. Keep to simple recipes you are confident about cooking and enjoy teaching them basic skills.
They could learn to:
· Roll pastry dough
· Stir and fold in sauces
· Rub crumble topping
· Weigh and measure ingredients
· Pour liquids
· Spoon in herbs and spices
· Peel and chop vegetables
Your child will enjoy helping to plan meals for the week. Try writing them onto a menu planner or chalkboard for them to see.
5. Let Them Have Control
Cooking with kids can be a very frustrating experience! They spill ingredients, struggle to stir and chop and dirty every utensil in the kitchen.
Bite back the temptation to take things out of their hands and instead aim to give them the least amount of support needed to be successful. This could mean:
· Holding the bowl while they stir
· Demonstrating how to chop and then watching them
· Telling them the ingredients to get out of the cupboards and fridge
· Holding a vegetable peeler together
· Adjusting their grip on a knife or spoon
· Helping to read measuring scales and recipe books
It takes longer to cook with a child so leave plenty of time to allow them to learn. Try not to take over to get it finished quickly.
It’s Easy to Cook with Kids
There are so many benefits to learning to cook from a young age. Your child will gain confidence and independence whilst also learning about where their food comes from and the importance of a balanced diet.
Remember to start simple and allow yourself plenty of time when you cook together. It can be messy but cleaning up as you go will stop a mountain of washing up piling by the sink.
Do you enjoy cooking with your child? What are your favourite family recipes?