How to Teach Your Kids to Cook

Baking cookies with your kids is a perfect way to while away a rainy Saturday. It’s easy family bonding and comes with a built-in edible reward. Somewhere between the mixing and the frosting, the samples of dough and big belly laughs, you’ve probably smiled and thought, We should do this more often.

But life is busy, and children aren’t always as excited about helping pull dinner together as they are about decorating sugar cookies. How can we spark the same level of interest in everyday cooking? How can we inspire our kids to join us in the kitchen? We spoke with a few parents (and BA staffers with children) who’ve cracked the code on cooking with kids.

Trust Them With Important Tasks

Scott DeSimon, deputy editor at Bon Appétit lets his son, Agostino, join the fun: “I’ve found the easiest way to get him involved is in any sort of ‘topping’ process: pizza, breadcrumbs on a gratin—basically if you can scatter it in a loosely defined area, it’s got his name written all over it.”

It’s not amusing to watch someone else do all the fun jobs, so to successfully engage your children in cooking, you’re going to have to let go of some control. Sure, your kitchen might get chaotic when you let your children measure dry ingredients, but what’s a little mess compared with instilling a sense of accomplishment? Says Meghan Frost-Begley, a home cook in Franklin, TN, and mother of George (almost 2) and Liana (3): “The kids help tenderizing the chicken”—her one-year-old likes to use “the hammer.” For recipes that don’t require exact measurements, she’ll also let the kids shake spices directly into the mixing bowl.

Other kid-friendly tasks include cracking eggs, mixing batter or dough—that big wooden spoon is good for more than drumming on pots!—and “taste-testing.” Potentially dangerous tasks—like using sharp knives, working with heat, or lifting heavy pans—should be approached with caution. If you choose to let your child handle the scary stuff, an important safety primer and supervision are both necessary.

How to Teach Your Kids to Cook

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