One of the best ways to help our kids become healthy adults is to get them interested in making their own food. Cooking together means you can help them develop important skills for later in life (like meal planning and kitchen safety) while spending more quality time and simply having fun getting dinner to the table.
Meal kits make it even easier to get kids involved: instead of spending time driving to the grocery store and back, why not spend it picking out healthy meals delivered straight to your door?
Here are a few ways for you and your future chef to start having fun in the kitchen. Although some of these tips are safe for kids as young as three years old, of course we promote safety first! Use your best judgment when deciding if a recipe step is right for your child’s development level and make sure that they’re always under an adult’s supervision.
When buying a meal kit, not only you get to choose how many meals you want delivered each week (and for how many people), you get to pick out which specific dinners you’d like to cook.
While this step should probably be saved for older children (we’re not recommending an intense negotiation with a three-year-old over the problem that Home Chef’s Italian Sausage and Broccoli Pasta dinner does contain broccoli), it’s an easy way to get kids excited about making dinner.
When it’s time to place your next (or first) order, have your kid(s) sit with you as you look at your meal delivery company’s menu for the week. Meal kits have rotating options so it’s easy to find dinners that everyone will love, whether you’re feeding a baby gourmand or someone who prefers a good comfort meal.
Letting them pick out a meal (or two) for the week makes your kids feel more involved–and being able to filter for easy-prep meals that can be done in 20 minutes or less means you can make sure that when it comes time to cook, everyone can have fun.
Prepping Your Mise En Place
Your meal kit will arrive at your door with almost everything you need to get started, including pre-proportioned ingredients and an instruction booklet.
When it’s time to start dinner, there are a few ways to get your tiny chef involved:
- Gather the ingredients stored in your fridge, pantry, or wherever you prefer to store your delivered items.
- Find pantry staples that weren’t included in your delivery, usually items like vegetable oil, salt and pepper, or a few tablespoons of milk.
- Wash the veggies by giving them a step-stool at the kitchen sink and a couple of towels for the cleaned produce and any splashes.
- Measure out spices into little dishes to prep dinner for cooking–while you keep an eye on exactly how much oregano might be added to your sauce.
As for that instruction booklet we mentioned? Help your kid follow along as it takes you step-by-step (with pictures) through the cooking process. You can help set expectations of what comes next so nothing feels a surprise and your dinner stays on track.
Once you have your mise en place all ready to go, your chef team is ready to cook!
Time to Cook!
Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, it’s time to start cooking. Depending on your child’s age and skill level–and thanks to knowing the menu and getting the instructions ahead of time–you already know what tasks are right for your little chef de cuisine to take on.
If they don’t quite have the coordination for chopping just yet, every kitchen needs someone to mix ingredients together. Armed with a bowl and a spatula, your chef can make sure everything gets mixed just right.
If they’re starting to learn knife skills, you can rely on crinkle cutters or child-safe kitchen knives (with blunt tips, easy-grip handles, and blades that won’t cut skin) to help you walk them through cutting through carrots, lemons, or grape tomatoes–using both hands on the handle for safety.
Older kids might want to take on more of the cooking themselves, or even cook the whole meal! You can help them by being their sous chef: doing the heavy chopping, mixing, and lifting while they take charge of getting the chicken dredged and seasoned for baking, stir-frying the beef, or pan-searing the tofu–all under your close supervision.
Start Cooking Today: Find Your Family’s New Favorite Meal Kit Company
We love meal kits for busy parents for many reasons: they’re a great way to save a trip to the grocery store, they have a variety of menu options to suit practically every diet (and satisfy any picky eater), and they are an easy way to get your kids involved in cooking!
We’ve reviewed the best meal delivery companies out there to help you find the best meal kit for your family. Check our favorites and get started today!
Knife Safety Tips
There are a lot of tools out there to help your child stay safe as they navigate their first moments with a cutting board, including butter knives, crinkle cutters, and child-friendly kitchen knives. In addition, there are some easy steps you can take to set them up for success (and not tears) as they learn how to use a knife:
- Emphasize the importance of knife safety. It's good for your child to learn that knives are sharp and can be dangerous if not handled the right way. Show them the right way to hand a knife to someone, by holding the blade by the spine with the handle pointed towards the receiver.
- Teach them the basic parts of a knife. Put a plastic knife on a cutting board and point out the different parts of the knife: handle, bolster, spine, edge, and tip. Your child doesn’t need to remember the names, but they should remember which parts are safe to touch and which parts are dangerous.
- Start with soft foods. Set up some strawberries, cheeses, or soft meats and ask your child to cut them up with a plastic knife. Walk them through the basics: how to hold the handle, where they should put their off hand while they cut, and how to slice different things.