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Getting your little ones involved in cooking can get them interested in eating a wide range of foods and trying things they might not usually eat. And it helps them pick up skills including nutrition, maths and science in a fun way that doesn’t feel like school. 

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Why cook together?

You might be wondering why you would get your child involved in cooking when you could get the dinner on faster by yourself. However, getting your little ones involved in cooking can get them interested in eating a wide range of foods and trying things they might not usually eat.

It’s also a lovely way to spend time together and it helps them pick up skills including nutrition, maths and even science in a fun way that doesn’t feel like school. Plus, if you get them started young you’ll have a kitchen hand for life. Win, win!

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Start simple

When you’re starting out in the kitchen with your child, aim for something simple. Something like scrambled eggs which only involves them whisking eggs and grating a bit of cheese and you heating it up which helps to build up their confidence – and it’s also delicious.

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Before you start

Kids need to be supervised in the kitchen and it’s helpful to set out rules such as washing hands and items they cannot touch such as the cooker knobs or knives. It’s good to talk about which kitchen tasks are for grown-ups and which are for kids and remind them as you go.

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Toddler tips

Have fun with your copy cat

We all know that our wee ones love copying us – put it to good use by getting them to “help” in the kitchen. Find a space where they can safely see what you’re doing and give them simple little things they can do.

It’s a fun way you can get them interested in trying out new foods. You can get them to mix things, wash fruit and vegetables, show them how to measure ingredients, or help you to put toppings onto a wrap or pizza.

If they’re starting to learn about colours, you can ask them to spot the colours they see as you’re cooking together.

Things may get a bit messy and you might need to remake a few things, but you may be surprised how many more foods your toddler will try because they’ve had a hand in making them.

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Cooking with 3-4 year olds

1, 2, 3, 4 for fun in the kitchen

Pre-schoolers can take on little tasks in the kitchen for you, like counting the number of tomatoes to put into a bowl, mashing banana with a fork, tearing up lettuce, or sprinkling dried herbs or spices. Talk to them about what you’re doing. Show them how to do it a few times first, and then let them have a crack at it.

Pre-schoolers love ticking things off a list, so you can help them count things out and tick them off, like counting out the tablespoons of flour that go into a mix. You can also get them to point out the colours of the food – like the tomatoes or the egg yolk.

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Cooking with 5, 6, 7 & 8 year olds

It’s sandwich time!

By 5, your child is getting to an age when they can do little step-by-step tasks. Great news for you, because you have a kitchen hand who can finally help you with things like sandwiches and salads! The great thing about that is they get to feel the pride of making “their” salad – which makes it more likely they’ll eat it.

As they get older, they will be able to start tackling things like cracking eggs, kneading and rolling out dough, peeling veg with a child-safe peeler and grating cheese.

You don’t need to be a master chef

It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best cook or only know a couple of recipes. Why not look up a recipe and watch it together to see how it’s done? You can find lots of recipes and cook-a-long videos here.

You can also get them to read out ingredients and, as they get older, follow step-by-step instructions. If you treat it like a game, it can make for a fun activity where you’re both learning together.

Let them plan the meals

You don’t need to be the only one deciding what to cook and throwing something together. Getting your child involved in picking what meals to eat that week means that you can get the whole family involved in everything, from planning, doing the food shop together, to making the meals.

A fun way to get them excited about picking out meals is to show them recipes they may like. You can use the meal planner on Parent Club to find lots of cheap, kid-friendly recipes they can choose from.

Let them lick the bowl

This one should go without saying, but unless you’re using raw meats, eggs or fish , your little chef gets dibs on licking the bowl!

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Keep kids busy with ready steady recipe

Reading a recipe together and weighing ingredients is a fun way to keep them busy.

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