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Written by Caroline Meyer

Christmas is a time for family and of course wonderful food to eat. Why not combine the two and spend time with the kids in the kitchen? This doesn’t need to be stressful. If you prepare well ahead of time, this can be a fun time and may even become part of your family traditions. As the kids become older, it can become even easier and eventually take some of the burden off you. 


When deciding what to cook, you need to think about what your child is able to do. Look at simple no-cook recipes that that just need all the ingredients thrown in together or biscuits that they can decorate themselves. Put together a few ideas that you think your child will be capable of doing and then ask them which ones they would like to make. This will also get them interested in cooking with you, although when they are younger, most kids will love joining in and spending time with you in the kitchen.   


Once you know what recipes your little ones are going to be making, make sure you get everything ready that you will need. Stock up on the fun decorating items such as chocolate chips and sprinkles. If you are making biscuits, get a few different cookie cutters so they can make and decorate a few different shapes. For most kids, the decorating is the fun part of cooking. For younger kids, pre-measure out everything in to bowls. Prepare all the equipment needed ahead of time. For older kids, you can allow them to do some measuring too. This will also alleviate some of the mess. 


Cooking with kids will generally take a bit more time than it would take you to do it alone and there may also be some spills and mistakes. Allow enough time so that you don’t become stressed worrying that you are running out of time to get it all done. Make it a relaxed time. Put on some soft music, chat and have fun with your kids. 


This is a great time to teach children about hygiene while cooking. Help them keep hair out of the way and not to pick noses or touch anything else while they are cooking.  Show them how to keep the counters clean as they work as well. Hands need to be washed before, during and after the cooking process. Ensure that the child can either work on a lower surface or if they have to stand on a chair, that is does not move and can’t tip very easily.  Explain about avoiding hot surfaces such as the stove and oven as well as the steam when the kettle has been boiled. Do not allow them to use sharp knives and explain while these are for adults only. Having a mug full of teaspoons on the counter so that they can taste the food they make in a hygienic way. 


You can go through the whole procedure at first and assign them things to do step by step.  There may be mistakes, but that’s fine. Let them try again when they make an error instead of taking over. This allows for life lessons such as trying again until you succeed. If the kids are old enough to read, allow them to read the instructions themselves. Those that can’t, you can give instructions, one at a time and allow them to finish the first before moving on to the next. You can also take this opportunity to tell your children about where the ingredients come from and what they are made from.  Little ones can do chicken sounds for eggs and cow noises for milk etc. This is a great way to combine learning into the cooking experience. You can arrange aprons for the kids and perhaps put some newspaper on the floor to catch the worst of the messes. Or otherwise let them put on old clothes or an old adult T-shirt to prevent stains on good clothes. This will also take the focus off staying clean as opposed to having fun. 


Use this time as a positive bonding experience while creating treats the kids can be proud to share out. Praise them when they get it right and don’t be afraid to hand them out as gifts to family and let them know the kids made them. This enhances the message of sharing while making the kids proud of their accomplishments. This will also make them more likely to want to cook with you next year! Make sure there is enough left over for your own Christmas table and so the children can also enjoy the fruits of their labour. 

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