By Savannah Chandler
Walton Gas Communications Coordinator
Will you be spending a lot of extra hours in the kitchen during the holidays preparing festive meals or making special treats? Don’t miss the opportunity to use this time to bond with your children or grandchildren.
Inviting children to help prepare a holiday meal
is a way to share family traditions.
Whether it’s for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, inviting children to help prepare a holiday meal is a way to share family traditions. It’s also the perfect time to teach children some basic cooking skills. They will have fun preparing foods and you’ll get some extra help. Even better: The young ones are sure to get a confidence boost when they see family and friends enjoying the food they helped to prepare.
As the mother of two, I’ve learned a few tricks for spending quality time with my young ones while also getting a meal on the table. Here are my top 8 ideas for cooking with your kids this holiday season.
Form a decorating committee. Get hard-to-motivate teens involved in holiday dinner preparations by putting them in charge of setting the table from start to finish. Tell them what you need, such as place settings, making decorations or a centerpiece, polishing silver or pressing table linens. Then, offer to show them the ropes or allow them to watch an online tutorial to learn on their own. Allow them to set and decorate the table with their own style, and you might be pleasantly surprised at what they can dream up.
- Have the safety talk. Be sure cooking together becomes a treasured holiday tradition and not a recipe for disaster. Cover a few safety ground rules before getting started in the kitchen. Teach kids to wash their hands with warm, soapy water while singing two choruses of "Happy Birthday" to wash away germs. If you’re using a natural gas cooktop, be sure to explain the hazards of gas flames and the need to keep loose sleeves, towels and potholders clear of cooktop grates. I suggest taking a moment to read these kitchen safety rules for kids (https://www.safewise.com/blog/safety-tips-for-cooking-with-kids-during-the-holidays/.
- Take it slow. Set aside ample time to enjoy the experience. Kids will have questions and limited attention spans. Resist the urge to rush without explaining exactly what you are doing in each step of a recipe — and why. Allow your helpers to gradually master simple cooking techniques as their age and abilities allow.
- Read the recipe. Time in the kitchen can also provide an opportunity for a reading lesson. Let one of your helpers read the recipe aloud. Help the child sound out words that are unfamiliar.
- Collect ingredients. Read the recipe a second time while helping children find and assemble the ingredients needed. Talk about the different ingredients and what they contribute, such as sugar is a sweetener.
- Assemble equipment and demonstrate. Show the children where you store equipment such as mixing bowls, and allow them to assemble the tools needed to make the recipe. Take a moment to demonstrate how to read measurements on a measuring cup and explain the importance of measuring the correct amount of each ingredient. Teach the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon.
- Assign jobs. Let’s get cooking! To keep everyone involved, assign age-appropriate jobs. Here are a few ideas:
- Sous chef. Select one child to be your right-hand helper for each recipe you make. The sous chef’s first job is to measure ingredients for the recipe. This helper is also given the duty of setting the oven timer, monitoring the oven during baking or roasting and ensuring oven mitts are at the ready.
- Stovetop attendant. This child is responsible for attending the bubbling pots on the stovetop. If you have a sensitive dish that needs constant stirring, have the monitor handle this task, too.
- Chef’s assistant. As you perform tasks, show the children what you are doing and then allow them to model it. Children ages 3-5 can mix together simple ingredients, snap green beans, help roll dough and cut cookies or tear lettuce for a salad. Those ages 6 or 7 can use a vegetable peeler or crack eggs. Kids ages 8 and 9 can learn to use a can opener or peel citrus fruits. Children age 10 and older can slice or chop vegetables, prepare pie filling, microwave foods or bake foods in the oven.
- Kitchen patrol. As you finish adding ingredients to your recipe, the KP crew takes food prep bowls and utensils to the sink and washes them. These lucky youngsters also get first dibs on any yummy ingredients that don’t make it into the oven, like wayward chocolate chips. Kids on KP also get to select the music playing in the kitchen while you work.
- Form a decorating committee. Get hard-to-motivate teens involved in holiday dinner preparations by putting them in charge of setting the table from start to finish. Tell them what you need, such as place settings, making decorations or a centerpiece, polishing silver or pressing table linens. Then, offer to show them the ropes or allow them to watch an online tutorial to learn on their own. Allow them to set and decorate the table with their own style, and you might be pleasantly surprised at what they can dream up.
- Have fun! While the goal is to get an edible meal on the table, don’t forget that cooking with kids at holiday time is a chance to make some great memories. Don’t stress if there’s a mess. Keep things moving and everyone involved to prevent bickering or frustration. Have the KP crew change up the music once in a while. Have kids swap jobs to keep them interested.
MORE: Looking for a new recipe to liven up your holiday cookie assortment, party platters or family meals? Check out the Walton Gas Gas Up the Stove recipes submitted by Georgia cooks and featured in issues of the Gasette newsletter.