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As a mom and a cooking evangelist, I truly believe that teaching kids to cook is one of the most important things we can do to support their development into competent, independent adults. But I also know that finding the time and making that happen can be a real challenge. So I wanted to share some tips on how to encourage your kids to cook as well as fun kits to get them started.
Why teach your kids to cook
As I have written about before, food and family dinners were essential parts of my childhood. Ironically, however, despite my mom’s best attempts, cooking was not. The poor woman tried everything to entice me to cook and I did dabble a bit, but mostly I just wasn’t interested.
And yet she persisted. If I wanted cookies, I had to make them myself (the first attempt was incredibly memorable, but that’s a story for another post). If I wanted boxed macaroni and cheese, I had to make it myself.
Then, when my brother and I were in high school, we were each responsible for one dinner a week. I dragged my heels but she stuck with it, making sure I had the basic skills necessary to cook for myself when the time came.
Years later, when I first started my career as a health coach, I quickly noticed a pattern: clients who came to me reluctant to cook often spoke of never having anyone teach them the basics. Sometimes it was because their parents hadn’t had time to teach them, sometimes it was because the kitchen was a parent’s domain where they didn’t feel welcome, and other times it was because they just never got around to it.
The reality, though, is that learning those basic skills is so important and the sooner we as parents teach our kids how to cook, the better equipped they will be to go off as adults and care for themselves, and the sooner they will be able to help us out in the kitchen, making dinner prep even easier!
Getting Kids to Cook (and Kits to Get Them Started)
While introducing our kids to the mechanics of cooking is important, for me, the real goal is to foster a love of cooking within our kids. So many of us struggle with feeling like cooking is just another daily chore. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could protect our kids from that sense of monotony and instead instill within them a passion for the creativity and fun that can be found in the kitchen and in cooking? If that becomes our goal, then how we teach cooking might look a little different.
Cook a favorite
There’s a reason that many kids start learning to cook through baking cookies: it’s fun! Not only is the end product is a special treat, but many of the actions we take when making cookies are satisfying: stirring ingredients, watching the dough come together, scooping the dough in small amounts to make the cookies, and then watching them bake through the oven door are all gratifying experiences.
We can do the same with other kinds of cooking as well! One great way to do that is to invite your kids to learn how to make their favorite dishes with you. Whether that is homemade pizza where you get to make and stretch the dough and build the pizza of your dreams, or spaghetti and meatballs where you get squish the meatball mixture together and then roll out the balls, teaching them the skills they need to learn through dishes they are excited to eat is always a great place to start.
Keep it light-hearted
There will be mess, there will be mistakes, and for some kids there will be frustration, so do your best to keep the environment light-hearted and fun. That can include playing fun music, shrugging off or even laughing at spills, embracing imperfection, and demonstrating flexibility. Your kids are looking to you for approval, so if we can keep it fun, they will be more likely to come back for more.
Know it will be slow
This was the hardest switch I had to make when I first started cooking with my kids. As someone who prides herself on being efficient, realizing that I had to slow waaaaaayyyy down in order to go at a pace that worked for my kids was challenging. But once I stopped trying to move things along, they started trying more things and getting more engaged in the cooking.
So now I mostly cook with my kids on the weekends when there is more time, and if they want to help during the week I give them simpler tasks that require less supervision.
Raddish Cooking Kits: A tool that makes cooking fun
As someone who specializes in helping busy families to eat well, I have tried many cooking schools and cookbooks designed specifically for kids and I can honestly say that none of them have gotten my kids as inspired and excited to cook as the Raddish Kids Cooking Club box received this winter.
There have been inspiring recipes here and useful ways to teach specific skills there, but the Raddish boxes seem to have found the sweet spot when it comes to engaging, inspiring, and actually teaching kids.
My boys loved the kit from the first moment we opened it. They were immediately drawn to the contents of the box. They thought the pancake molds were cool, they liked the games and activities that were included such as a mad lib, trivia, and quizzes, but most importantly they were thrilled with the recipe options.
For my part, I was equally impressed. Not only were there three recipe cards laid out in a kid-friendly manner in the kit, but there were also winter-themed pancake molds, a shopping list for the ingredients needed, conversation starters, games, a fun patch (great for littler kids than mine!), and even a bonus super easy recipe to make as a holiday gift along with gift tags.
The three recipes in the kit were Alpine Pancakes with an Apple Compote (with fun winter-themes pancake molds), Cozy Chicken and Dumplings, and Chocolate Snowball Cookies.
Of course, the snowball cookies were of immediate interest, but both of my boys loved the idea of being responsible for making breakfast one morning, dinner one evening, and dessert another day. The fact that they were going to be cooking full meals on their own was instantly appealing, especially as they looked more carefully at the recipes and discovered what they would be making.
The only question remaining was what to cook first!
Recipe 1: Alpine Pancakes
My boys decided to start by being in charge of a weekend breakfast. Other than helping them to locate ingredients and giving some tips on temperature regulation for the griddle, the boys made the entire meal themselves, from peeling and dicing the apples for the compote, to figuring out how to use the pancake molds and flipping the pancakes.
They struggled a bit with burning the pancakes (a challenge that I am all too familiar with) and the recipe took them longer to make than the instructions predicted, but they had a blast making them and, in the end, told me that they thought their pancakes were better than mine (and I didn’t disagree)!
Recipe 2: Cozy Chicken and Dumplings
Next up was the Cozy Chicken and Dumplings. This one really required working on knife skills, as they had to dice onion, carrot, celery, and chicken. While my kids are already quite confident with their knife skills, I was happy to see that this recipe card included detailed safety tips on how to handle a knife.
I also loved that this was a one pot meal so that the boys were able to make a full dinner for our family in one fell swoop. They were so proud of their accomplishment, insisted on being the ones to serve at dinner (which I loved), and both declared it a new favorite comfort food!
The Cozy Chicken and Dumplings was absolutely delicious. Warm, nourishing, full of flavor, and fun to eat. Even our new pup, Mushroom, loved licking the pot when we were done!
Recipe 3: Chocolate Snowball Cookies
The final recipe for the boys to tackle was the Chocolate Snowball Cookies. As someone who first learned to cook by teaching myself to bake cookies, I was excited to watch the boys make this recipe. Again, because of the great instructions and simple recipe, they were able to make the dish on their own from start to finish.
As I am sure you can imagine, the boys were especially excited to prepare a dessert. In particular, they loved the tactile nature of the recipe (getting to roll and dip the dough) but also getting to use the hand mixer was a big bonus.
For me, I loved watching them figure out how to work together on this project. As they went along they had to negotiate who got to crack the eggs, who used the hand mixer when, and more. The teamwork was impressive!
This was another recipe where I was impressed with the skills taught. On the recipe card they included tips on how to make great cookies every time and shared little tidbits that will serve my boys well in any baking project they do in the future.
And, as with the other two recipes, the final product was AMAZING! We actually took half of the cookies over to a friend who later texted me to rave about the cookies, feedback that encouraged the boys to cook even more!
Final Verdict: Raddish is a Winner!
I am officially a Raddish fan! With the exception of two birthday meals that the boys prepared for their grandparents, this is the most excited I have ever seen my kids about cooking. They were so proud of the final product every time, and rightly so as all three dishes were absolutely delicious.
While I did remain present to answer any questions they had (and to reassure them when they were flipping pancakes), my boys made all three recipes entirely on their own. Not only did they learn some solid cooking skills, but they also exhibited teamwork, which always makes me happy.
What Age is Raddish Good For?
My kids are 10 and 12 and could do everything on their own. I would say that these recipes could be made with a parents’ assistance starting at age 4. As kids get older and their cooking skills become more developed, these can be done independently, as my kids did. In short, I think that this is a service that can grow with your kid.
The only issue we had was that the recipes took a little longer than the recipe cards stated, but I think that’s because they did it all on their own. With more parental involvement, they could easily have gotten the dishes completed in the time suggested.
I also really appreciate how high quality the kits are. Over the years we have experimented with a number of the monthly activity kits, and often the materials included have been little more than card stock cut-outs, rubber bands, and cheap plastic pieces. The Raddish kit we received, on the other hand, included high-quality silicone molds for the pancakes and high-end laminated recipes cards that we’ll be able to use and wipe down for years to come (because you better believe we’ll be making all three dishes again!).
All in all, Raddish is a winner! And will now be the cooking resource I recommend when parents ask me for ways to get their kids cooking.
Want more ideas that will get your kids to cook? Check out our posts on How to Involve Kids in the Cooking and Recipes Kids Can Make.