7 Simple Low-risk Ways to Involve Kids in the Kitchen

Kids benefit tremendously from helping in the kitchen. Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to try healthy foods and participate in family meals. They are also learning valuable cooking skills and building self-confidence as they contribute to the family. I try to frequently involve my kids in baking and cooking for these reasons.

But sometimes I am too short on time or patience to really let my kids (ages 6, 4, and 2) be fully involved. Or sometimes the child who wants to be involved is under two or just beginning to help in the kitchen.  At those moments, I need a simple way to let them feel involved that still let's me get the job done quickly and successfully. Here are some easy, low-stakes way that I let the kids help me in the kitchen.

7 Easy, Low-risk Ways to Involve Kids in the Kitchen

Let them dump the ingredient in after you measure it.
For many things I make, the amount of certain ingredients (say, the salt or yeast in my 100% whole wheat honey bread) is a little too critical for me to let my children measure it by themselves without close supervision and assistance (which takes extra time). But I'll let them dump most ingredients into the mixing bowl after I've measured them. If you do the hand-off over the mixing bowl, you don't have to worry about them spilling some unknown quantity outside the bowl.

Let them hand you ingredients.
One of my kids' favorite jobs is to hand me eggs. You could also get out all the dry ingredients you need for baking at once (baking powder, spices, salt, etc.), and then have your child hand them to you as you add them. After you add them to the mixing bowl, your child can return them to their proper place if within their reach.

Let them turn on and off kitchen appliances.
My 2-year-old loves to hold down the mixing button on our little food processor while making hummus. Everyone loves to turn on and off the Kitchenaid mixing bowl while mixing up a giant batch of cookie dough.

Have them move a small amount of flour (or beans or rice) from one container to another using a small measuring spoon or cup.
One day my two-year-old took it upon herself to put the leftover flour in the grain mill into my flour container. My first impulse was to stop her, but then I realized this was a pretty harmless way for her to feel involved. And she manages to get most of the flour into the container, minus a tablespoon or two. Now this is my favorite pastime for my two-year-old  (see photo at the top) when I'm busy cooking up a quadruple batch of pumpkin waffles or baking four loaves of whole wheat bread. The small amount of cleanup is usually well worth the half hour of entertainment it bought me. Anytime you need an ingredient moved from place A to place B (and a small amount of spilling is not disastrous), consider handing the job over to the kids.

Measure out a large quantity of an ingredient into a bowl, and then let your kid transfer it to the mixing bowl. 
When I need large amount of rolled oats for my healthy whole grain "cookies" or applesauce oat muffins, I often measure the large quantity into a separate bowl and then let my kids add it to the mixing bowl with a measuring cup. Encourage them not to spill!

Let them measure ingredients for which the exact amount is not important to outcome.
When the stakes are low, I'm always happy to have my kids both measure and dump the ingredient into the mixing bowl. Think cheesechocolate chips, raisins, nuts, or other mix-ins. Since the amount of flour in dough always has to be adjusted at the end anyway, I often let my kids add flour to the mixing bowl when I'm making bread. I just make sure they add less than the needed amount, and then I can add the remaining amount until the desired dough consistency is reached.

Let them watch using a stool or chair.
The classic way to keep little ones occupied in the kitchen. My four-year-old and two-year-old love to watch me crack eggs into a bowl. They also love to watch me pour eggs into a skillet, saute onions, and flip pancakes. Even when I'm in a big hurry, I'll let my kids watch alongside me.

What is your favorite easy low-risk way to involve little kids in the kitchen?

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100% Whole Wheat Honey Bread Recipe

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  1. We gave each child a tin of their own. In the tin was a small amount of each (non fresh) ingredient used in basic baking. i.e. flour, sugar, dried fruit, ground almonds etc. When they wanted to cook they took their tin and were given a limited amount of eggs/milk/butter. There were no recipes, they decided how much of each ingredient to use and how it was incorporated (they had access to recipes and to us but the choice was theirs). Some offerings were a little odd, they tended to be over eggy and under sugered. But they were theirs, they made their own mistakes within the confines of the limited ingredients available. The tins were replenished each month but when they ran out of ingredients they either had to wait or do deals with their siblings (!). All are now exceptionally good and very experimental cooks.


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