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Getting kids in the kitchen can lead to greater confidence around food, a wider palette and willingness to try new foods, so it’s no wonder that there are loads more kids cooking classes in Melbourne popping up.
There are plenty of small jobs for kids to do to help prepare a meal. Some of the simplest ways to cook with kids are picking herbs, washing veggies or helping with the measuring cups. Never mind if you haven’t gone to culinary school yourself! You don’t need to be an expert to introduce your children to the joys of healthy food. However, if you do feel like you need a bit more confidence, there are loads of Melbourne workshops to get you feeling sharp and capable in the kitchen. Have a look at some kids cooking classes in Melbourne as well. An afternoon spent rolling pizza dough or decorating cupcakes might be just the thing to encourage your child to actually be excited about helping out with dinner at home!
“Whether they’re washing vegetables, helping to whisk eggs or simply watching you make dinner, having the kids in the kitchen from day one helps them to feel comfortable,” cookbook author and television chef Donna Hay explains.
1. Washing veggies or salad leaves
No knives involved, perfect for littler ones. Just put a step stool in front of the sink, grab a big bowl for them and away they go.
2. Picking herbs
Kids can use scissors to cut herbs from your own veggie garden, after a little demonstration from you, showing how and where to cut. They are also great at picking individual herb leaves off the stalks, such as basil - their dexterous little fingers are perfect for the job!
3. Shelling peas or broad beans
Kids love this one! Those little green morsels tucked inside the cushiony shell are the perfect thing to inspire your little ones about the wonder of nature. And essentially, how nature grows our food. They can see where the peas and broad beans grew and how they were protected in their little green cocoon. It’s also a great exercise to improve fine motor skills.
4. Helping to measure ingredients
A cup full of flour, half a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla…. All of these measuring activities help children learn about amounts and volume but the kids also love the responsibility of making sure it’s just right, level at the top. It makes them feel important to contribute and proud of themselves.
5. Rolling, kneading, shaping
Children are very tactile and love getting their hands on any type of dough, be it a ball of pizza or bread dough or a flat sheet of pasta dough or a roll of cookie dough. Let them make an oddly-shaped pizza, abnormally large cookie or a lizard-shaped bread roll! (There’s even some pizza making classes in Melbourne just for kids if you want to try that first.)
6. Cutting without knives.
Cookie cutters are brilliant for getting kids involved in the kitchen. They can choose their favourite shape, press it down on the dough and practice wiggling it just gently enough that when they lift up the cutter, the cookie shape lifts too and then they can place it on the baking tray.
7. Cutting or grating veggies or cheese
If your child is ok with a knife, cutting slices of cucumber for the salad or halving the cherry tomatoes is a perfect job for them. As long as they’re mindful of fingers, grating cheese, carrots and zucchini for fritters is another great task.
Younger kids love to hold a big whisk. They are captivated as they watch whole golden egg yolks floating in a sea of whites slowly disperse into a harmonious yellow mixture thanks to the work of their very own hands.
9. Peeling root veg and fruit
Potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes are easily peelable. (Perhaps stay away from the beetroot unless you want their fingers stained pink.) If you need apples or oranges for a salad or dessert, kids can have a go at this too.
10. Making pasta dough and using the pasta machine
This one requires adult involvement for little ones but older kids can manage it quite well themselves. Rolling out the dough, shaping it into a usable rectangle and then feeding it into the pasta machine makes for a very fun experience for kids! Take the kitchen table outside in the sun on an autumnal or winter’s afternoon and let the kids make all the mess they want with the flour!
Sometimes, when you’ve just rushed in the door from work and you’ve only got half an hour to get dinner on the table before scooting out the door to Kid #2’s soccer practice, having your child literally in the kitchen with you isn’t going to be possible. So, here are some other ways to have your child involved in the preparation or even in the planning of the family menu. They will still feel connected and involved in the food elements of family life.
Even if your children are nearby doing homework or playing while you cook, they can learn about food by accidentally observing what you are doing. Another tack to involve your kids in part of the process of cooking is getting their help to plan a meal. Something as simple as, “What should we have for dinner tonight, kids?” gets your children excited about the imminent meal, considering what foods they like and then thinking about what ingredients you need. Maybe they could write the shopping list. Or read a recipe in a cookbook and go through the pantry and fridge to see what you have and what you need to buy for that recipe.
A good idea is to try to take your kids to the fruit and veggie market and get them to help pick the ingredients for dinner. Despite the fact that it’s probably easier, quicker and more relaxing on your own, it does encourage their participation in what the family is eating and can pique their natural curiosity about food. If they’ve had the chance to attend a Melbourne cooking class for kids, they might recognise ingredients that they have used before, offering up another invitation for you to talk with them about food and cooking.
At the very least, the kids can set the table! They’ll need to know what’s for dinner, whether you’re going to need knives and forks or just spoons, and whether to put plates on the table (or will Mum or Dad serve up in the kitchen and carry full plates to the table?). It’s a simple job that still renders a recognition of the importance of food, the ritualistic nature of a sit-down family meal each night and gets them looking forward to dinner! If you’ve got a chalkboard, they could even pretend that your dining room is a restaurant and write out the menu!