7 Tips To Make Cooking a Fun Family Bonding Activity
Most families agree they want to spend more time together, but they’re not sure how. Between work, school, extracurricular activities, and social time with people outside the family, we often don’t reserve enough time for family bonding activities. Cooking is a great option for a fun activity to do together since everyone needs to eat, and homecooked meals are more affordable than eating out. However, cooking together isn’t always easy. Follow the seven tips we provide below to help make cooking a fun family bonding activity.
Start With Safety Lessons
Many parents want their children to develop culinary skills and to bond with them while cooking, but they’re nervous about all the dangers a kitchen can hold. Kitchens are dangerous for people of all ages, from young children to experienced adults. To protect your child from these dangers, you must start them with safety lessons before they enter the kitchen as a chef.
Make your safety lesson age appropriate. Most children, even at preschool age, can understand that stoves and ovens are dangerously hot and knives are dangerously sharp. Teach young children how to avoid these objects. Older children can learn how to safely interact with these objects. For example, they can learn how to use oven mitts to pick up hot pot lids and keep a firm grip on a sharp knife. Keep the rules for avoidance or interaction hard and fast. No exceptions, no matter what, so they understand the severity of these rules that keep them safe.
Assign Children Their Own Spaces and Tools
Once children understand what they can’t and shouldn’t do in the kitchen, you can show them what they can do. Assign each child a spot in your kitchen where they will work and contribute to the family meal. This is where they should always stand unless they need a device that’s placed elsewhere, such as the sink or food processor. Make sure this spot is completely safe and temptation-free so you can trust them to stay safe without reaching for an interesting bubbling pot or knife set nearby.
To avoid disagreements while working in these spots and continue to protect your children from kitchen accidents, assign them specific tools. For example, young children can have a butter knife they can safely cut soft food with. Label a specific butter knife for this purpose so each child knows what they can safely grab and use. No one will fight over the available butter knives, and everyone can easily follow safety precautions if you do this. It also gives your children an idea of how many tools go into cooking and how much cleaning follows the cooking process since they can easily spot their dirty tools.
Find Kid-Friendly Recipes
With the appropriate tools, your children can cook and contribute to building a meal. Choose simple recipes for these meals featuring ingredients your children can safely work with. While they’ll likely need adult supervision and actual cooking assistance, finding and using kid-friendly recipes they can help create will ensure the work is more evenly divided.
Break down your chosen kid-friendly recipe together at the beginning. This will help children learn about real-world applications for many of their school lessons, such as following directions and taking measurements. After looking through the recipe together, assign children their safe task in their safe spot with their safe tools, and you can all start cooking together.
Allow for Plenty of Time
There’s a popular saying that claims “many hands make light work.” When you first imagine dividing up the recipe and giving roles to so many more cooks, you may think this is true. However, children are new to the kitchen and cooking process. They’ll make mistakes and need assistance, ultimately taking more time to cook something than you may originally imagine. When those many hands are little hands, there is no light work.
However, this extra work in the beginning is worth it. The more your children are in the kitchen learning, the better skills they will develop. Eventually, that popular saying will become true. As your children grow, they may even be able to cook without your help, and then you’ll definitely get to enjoy “light work.” Until then, give yourself and your family plenty of time to work. Make sure you’ve stored up plenty of mental patience for this long process.
Prepare for and Accept the Mess
Some of your mental patience will go to scheduling, and the rest will need to go toward the expected mess. Anyone who has children or has worked with them knows they’re naturally messy creatures. They’re learning about the world through all their senses, including touch, meaning they often leave their sensory experiences behind them in a mess. This is unfortunately true for cooking as well. Your meal will take more time to prepare and will leave behind more of a mess when you cook with children.
However, if you prepare for this mess ahead of time and accept it as it happens, you can still enjoy the cooking process. For example, you can put protective cloth or paper on your countertops to prevent fruit juice from running everywhere while your child chops with a butter knife. You can also help older children tie on an apron to protect their clothes from bread flour. Expect fruit juice drippings and flour dust anyways, and use that mess to educate children about cleaning responsibilities as well. Cleaning is an essential part of cooking, so the mess doesn’t have to exacerbate you or go to waste as they learn.
Talk and Tell Stories While Your Cook
With all these directions and processes happening, you may lose the entire intention of cooking together: having fun and bonding as a family. Keep conversation starters, such as cards or mementos, nearby so you can easily start a conversation and talk as you work together. If you’re making a recipe from a family member or friend, tell stories about the food. This shows your children that cooking is about more than food; it’s about love, which is way more fun than learning to cut strawberries just because.
Take Pictures To Capture the Accomplishment
Our children are still learning perseverance and patience, which means they may feel frustrated and not want to cook. Take a picture of the dish you made and your family to capture the cooking accomplishments as they happen. This gives children something tangible to look back on so they feel pride in their work and want to continue cooking.
Cooking can be a fun family bonding activity if you make it so. Following these seven tips can make the process easier for everyone. Another way to make cooking easier is to invest in the right kitchen appliances. ROBAM sells appliances online, so you can easily find the equipment to make your kitchen a happy place for your whole family.