It is wonderful and important for children to be involved with family meals, from preparation to clean up. Having an integral role in the kitchen gives them a sense that they are contributing to the family, helps them gain a sense of their own abilities and allows them to develop a sense of self-reliance. Here are some simple and effective ways to get your kids cooking in the kitchen.

Assign each child a specific day each week where they are responsible for cooking

The routine and structure will give them something to look forward to. Plus, it’ll really help them to realize the important role that they play in the family.

Look for inspiration in the things that you already do together.

Next time you go to the library, pick a book that talks about food. Or if you’re watching a TV show together, notice if the characters are eating a meal together. Use these as discussion topics, ask your child if they would like to try to cook what So-and-so is cooking!

Let them choose the recipe.

Get a few cookbooks that you know are family friendly and let them decide what to make. At first don’t even dwell on whether it’s healthy, just let them pick what they want based off of the title, favorite ingredients or even just a pretty picture!

Get kid-friendly utensils.

Something little hands can hold comfortably. This will help them feel a little less overwhelmed and more at ease.

Shop at the farmer’s market so they can handle the food before you buy it

They can even ask questions directly to the people who grow it, how cool is that? Many times our farmers will let us sample as well. This is all part of allowing the kids to feel empowered.

Let them do as many age-appropriate activities as possible.

Including cutting, measuring, mixing and the actual cooking. Let them crack the eggs, even if it means a little shell might get in there (that’s part of the charm!). Let them mix, even if it means there’s a little extra flour on the table. Although in the end we certainly want a delicious meal, this is more about the experience of just being in the kitchen. Don’t let fear of an imperfect dish ruin the experience.

Let them be taste testers!

Allow them to sample as you go and if they don’t like it let them decide how to correct it. This trial and error is crucial to figuring out how spices and seasoning effects the end taste.

Watch videos that explain complicated concepts

What makes bread rise? why is soda fizzy? that will intrigue them. Not only are they getting science lessons but it’ll trigger their curiosity to experiment with these foods so they can see the reactions first hand.

Show how cooking utilizes all your senses.

Taste is a big component, but there’s so much more to it than that! The sound of water droplets hitting hot oil. Rub some fresh herbs between your fingers to bring out the fragrance and see how it smells. What about the way that raw spinach shrinks down before your eyes as it’s cooking?

Let them know how proud you are of them

Give them positive feedback. Share their creations with other family members, friends or neighbors. Even if their muffins are a bit dry, be sure that they realize how much you appreciate the effort!

Last, but not least, be sure to compliment your assistant chefs on a job well done. Offer them the first taste of whatever you cooked together — and ask what you should make together next time.

For the best memories, make your own recipe book with your kids. Take pictures of your little chefs in action and immortalize these precious moments. You’ll also have fun putting your album together with them!

Bon appetite!!