Christmas time usually means a lot of cooking and who better to serve as your personal sous chef than little Johnny or Jane!? Christmas cooking with kids could be something as simple as getting items out of the fridge or as difficult as baking a pie – either way, your children helping out will not only give you extra hands but, more importantly, it will give you a lot of great extra memories.
Guidelines For Christmas Cooking With Kids
UP TO AGE FIVE…
Kids five and under might not be able to give a lot of help in the kitchen, but they can certainly give you some great entertainment and keep you company. This is also the chance to teach them a few foodie ways. Explain what you are making and how you are doing the job. They will probably have a lot of questions and it will be fun interaction.
They can also get “hands-on” by stirring or mixing (just beware of the possible over zealous mess!) Pancakes are always a good choice. The tykes can take part in most of the prep and then quickly enjoy their efforts. Also try letting them decorate food when it needs it. For example, the pancakes can get all kinds of bling. Think of yogurt toppings – chocolate chips, strawberries, bananas, whipped topping, etc – and let the kids make their own masterpiece.
Usually at this age, Christmas cooking with kids is more about them just being a part of something – even if it is just for ten minutes and doing something as simple as washing a few dishes.
SIX TO NINE…
Now we are starting to cook – literally! At this age kids can follow basic instructions and actually make cooking a little easier for you. Plus, they’re eager to learn. There are even some great children’s cookbooks out there, with very elaborate illustrations, so your child can really get involved. This is also a great time to introduce foods and tastes to kids. Let them nibble and try certain items to get a feel for different ingredients.
For starter jobs – put them in charge of collecting all the tools, such as bowls, spoons, and measuring cups. The upper end of this age range can help with measuring and pouring, while the younger ones can take part in the stirring. They can also be a big help when it comes to preparation. If any vegetables need cleaning or scrubbing, fill the sink and give them the responsibility of performing this important task.
Also, don’t forget to give them a few time consuming jobs to help you out. Believe it or not at Thanksgiving, I had my son peel potatoes for 30 minutes and he enjoyed it! Plus he was thorough because he wanted to impress dad – a win/win in my (cook) book!
TEN TO TWELVE…
Now children are getting to the age where they can truly get involved from start to finish. We are talking about real Christmas cooking with kids! Planning, prepping, designing, and finishing. Let them try chopping vegetables (carefully and with supervision), blending sauces, measuring precise ingredients, and more. They might even be ready to fully take on a small, simple recipe from start to finish. To get them in the spirit, try sharing some holiday family tradition recipes and tell them the stories and the memories behind the people and events with those recipes.
THIRTEEN AND UP…
Once kids are in their teens, they can be a serious help to you – and considering how busy teenagers are, time in the kitchen can also be great bonding time. Some of my fondest holiday memories as a teen were of helping my Grandma in the kitchen when we would go there for Christmas dinner. I can still picture the stairs to the cellar where I would have to go get the canned preserves.
Give them one dish on the menu that is entirely their own, such as a salad or appetizer or dessert. Obviously you’ll need to be around to answer questions, but it’s a great opportunity for them to fully be a part of the meal – and enjoy the compliments later! Or, if they don’t want to be a part of the cooking, they can still be a part of the kitchen. Put them on clean up duty and let them handle the “after party mess” complete with putting away leftovers and sending home doggie bags. Because that is of course EXACTLY what a temperamental teen wants – more chores and responsibilities! (My guess is they will choose the cooking part instead!)
Happy holidays and please share any stories of Christmas cooking with kids you might have!
Rob Youngblood is a Dad, Keynote Speaker, Life and Communication Coach, Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Writer, and Storyteller. Learn more about him at youngbloodonthecoast.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.