Cooking With Kids: How to Make It an Adventure!

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Did you grow up learning how to cook in the kitchen alongside your mom or dad? Many of us millennials didn’t, and it shows. I first showcased my cooking skills to my future husband in my first solo apartment by cooking the only thing I knew how — enter chicken and pasta, sometimes called pasta and chicken, if you wanted to mix things up! Mind you, this was frozen chicken breasts MICROWAVED and pasta made on the stovetop. Super fancy, right? No wonder he married me.

Luckily, I found a CHEF. Legit, no joke here. He learned to cook around age 10 when his mom underwent surgery and needed additional help. I do think some people have the cooking gene and some just don’t (me, I’m more of a baker).

Whatever you believe, exposing our kids to getting their hands dirty in the kitchen from an early age encourages them to try foods, boosts their confidence, and can play a role in their future relationship with cooking and food overall. A study done at the University of Alberta found that kids who did cook were also more aware of the importance of making healthier food choices. I’ve put together four “cooking with kids” tips to help you get your littles more involved in the kitchen.


Tip #1: Be Ready for the Mess

Cleaning up after my chef husband can be a full-time job. Sometimes I think he dirties AS MANY utensils and pots/pans as possible, just to mess with me. But I still smile through the dish duty with a full tummy because I prefer my food to taste good.

Cooking with kids is no different than cooking with a messy husband. Don’t expect them to clean up as they go, like most of us moms do (am I the only one?), but DO set the expectation that they should help with pick up from the get-go. I like to make it super simple by tossing all dirty tools (spoons, knives, etc.), measuring cups, etc. into whatever large mixing bowl may have been used. Toss it in the sink and fill with warm soapy water and have them wipe the counters. Boom, half of cleanup is done. If you prefer to have them empty the dishwasher, go that route. Just find what works best for you and your crew!

Tip #2: Safety First

This is a great opportunity to teach or remind your kids about kitchen safety. Talk about the hot stove and oven, how plastic can’t go in the microwave, and electric mixer and knife safety. There are tons of kid-friendly tools out there like plastic knives or mandolins, and don’t forget about step stools and those adorable aprons and hats on Etsy, too! They will feel a sense of ownership when they have their own tools and clothes for the kitchen that are just theirs.

Tip #3: Prep Whenever Possible

Going hand in hand with cutting safety comes boiling water. Especially when they are very little, cooking rice or pasta ahead of time to avoid having to juggle tiny hands and carrying a hot pan of water from the stove to the sink simultaneously. Having them jump in for the sauce portion of pasta night is just fine, and they likely won’t know the difference.

Tip #4: Watch Them Grow

It’s been amazing to see our boys’ kitchen independence flourish. From learning how to first crack an egg without dropping shell pieces into the mix, to learning knife technique from their dad, my nearly 11-year-old can now make banana bread entirely on his own (I’m just there to make sure the house doesn’t burn down). He also recently created his own (top secret!) chocolate chip cookie recipe and gets tons of compliments on it since we love bringing baked goods to friends.


They constantly ask to make things from scratch, and while sometimes we do have to say no, we try not to whenever possible to continue to foster their kitchen curiosity. On most days, I know I’d rather have a messy kitchen with homemade cookies, smiles on their chocolate-covered faces, and memories made, than a perfectly clean, empty one.

Arguably the best part of cooking: taste-testing!

If neither parent is kitchen savvy, there are tons of great classes you can take together like at Jax Cooking Studio, and they have fun themes you can pick together or a summer camp they can do solo. I just love how cooking is no longer just a woman’s job, and I’m proud to be able to help teach my boys that so they can cook for their families one day.

Meagan Vesta
Midwest-natives Meagan and her husband Matt first moved to Jacksonville in 2011 and have lived all over town from the beaches to St. John's County. They now own a small farm in Nassau County along with their two sons and two rescue dogs. This year they are starting a market garden featuring fresh, locally-grown produce and you can follow along on their journey at @vestafamilyfarms! Meagan has been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and now a work-from-home mom for Jax Mom while homeschooling her two boys and helping run the farm. They enjoy watching their sons play little league along with Jumbo Shrimp games and also enjoy fishing and boating in Jax whenever they can!


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