Now is a great time to get the kids involved in the kitchen. Take advantage of your time together at home to teach them a valuable life skill—and have a little fun together.
For advice, I turned to Molly Birnbaum, editor-in-chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids, which recently released “My First Cookbook,” a cookbook designed for, tested by, and approved by kids.
The Epoch Times: What do you think is the value in cooking with kids?
Molly Birnbaum: Cooking is a great way to spend time together, without screens. It’s a great way to teach—about healthy eating, different cultures and rituals, and even science and math. Cooking empowers kids to feel comfortable making things and sharing the results. It’s a way to explore different cultures in the world, from the safety of their homes (important right now!).
The Epoch Times: What are your best tips to maximize fun and enrichment—while minimizing stress?
Ms. Birnbaum: My best tip for cooking with kids is to embrace the mistakes. Mistakes that they make. Mistakes that you make. It’s going to be messy (more or less depending on your kids’ ages). You can’t escape that. But if you don’t go into the experience with the expectation that the cooking will be perfect, the learning will be perfect, and the finished product will be perfect, then you will actually enjoy yourself in the process—plus, the food will be tasty no matter what. Cooking should be fun, not perfect.
The Epoch Times: What are some important safety and cleaning guidelines to keep in mind?
Ms. Birnbaum: If you’re going to have your kids use knives (which I recommend over age 5!), make sure you teach them how to hold the knife properly, and how to keep their fingers away from the blade. We use a “bear claw” grip, with the fingers propped up on whatever you’re cutting, to keep the fingers away from anything sharp.
I also recommend washing your hands before you start cooking, and after touching raw meat or eggs.
The Epoch Times: Depending on age, where is a good place to start?
Ms. Birnbaum: Oh man—anywhere! For little kids, like toddlers, you can involve them in one step of a recipe—ideally something that involves squishing or scrunching or mixing with your hands. For slightly older kids, they can lead in a simple recipe, like yogurt swirl parfaits or energy bites. For 8- to 12-year-olds, they’re really starting to be old enough to cook with only minor assistance (with sharp, hot, or heavy things). You should follow their lead, and tackle recipes that make them excited!
The Epoch Times: Are there any specific tasks, projects, or recipes that you’ve found to be the biggest hits with kids?
Ms. Birnbaum: For young kids, anything that is sensory is a big hit—the rolling, scrunching, kneading. Anything that feels like action. Kids, of course, like baking projects and sweet treats. But I’ve been most impressed by the pride kids show when they finish cooking dinner for their family. It can be as simple as cooking chicken breast and broccoli on a sheet pan in the oven—cooking for loved ones and sharing the results is empowering!
RECIPE: Applesauce Mini Muffins
RECIPE: Cake Pan Pizzas
Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.