6 tips when cooking with your little ones (plus 3 clean-up hacks!)

Cooking is a natural part of most parents' lives. Whether you're a kitchen connoisseur who loves to create, or you know just enough to get by, cooking with your children is such a good bonding mechanism. Although it can occasionally be stressful, if you follow these simple tips you can make the most of the time with your little budding chef.

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1. Teach them about hygiene

There's the simple stuff of course, such as washing their hands before they start and whenever necessary during. You can even go a little further, and teach them a little more about why it's important to be clean in the kitchen. BBC Bitesize have some great tools for teaching your little ones all about hygiene.

2. Forward planning

Plan the recipe you're going to make with your children, and talk them through it beforehand. You can even let them choose from a handful you've selected. When selecting a few for them to pick from, try and find recipes that sound like fun activities. Lots of hands-on stuff works really well.

Forward planning also includes getting the necessary equipment and ingredients together beforehand. If required, you could even do some prior preparation before asking your kids to join you.

3. Patience is key

Taking your time whilst cooking with your children is so important. Not only does it make them feel more comfortable, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy it more. You can soak up the amazing memories you make much easier this way.

You can also expect things to take longer, so putting aside some extra time is important. Your children are going to enjoy the making part much more than the final product; do what you can to let them enjoy this time as much as possible.

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4. Make it fun

Your little one is enjoying learning something new. Don't be uptight in the kitchen - let them find their way around and have fun with them. Choosing basic recipes to start on takes the stress out of the kitchen, and makes you less nervous so you can enjoy it just as much.

It's likely that your child will see themselves as a real chef during the recipe, so play on that a little. Make them feel like the real deal - they'll love it. You can also get their favourite toys involved to make it even more personal for them.

5. Let them experiment

These might be dreaded words for some parent who love organisation. But trust us when we say that this can be the most fun part of cooking with your children. Let their imagination take hold when they're decorating a cake, or encourage them to add in new ingredients if they feel like it (within reason of course!)

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This is what's good about a simple recipe - there's often some leeway in what can go in. Who knows, they might actually stumble across something quite tasty. At the end of the day, it's all about having fun!

6. Don't expect a clean affair

Let's be honest here - your kitchen is going to be far from spotless once you're all finished. Cooking is a messy affair just with you, so with kids you can of course expect a little more.

You could try some preventative measures such as placing cloths down where they'll be working, or leaving the really messy stuff for you to do. But, when it comes down to it, you're likely to have more fun by letting the mess just happen and then cleaning up together afterwards.

Cleaning tips

1. Clean as you go

Cleaning as you go stops staining or even damaging; if your kitchen has wood flooring you'll know that too much moisture can cause real damage. There's also nothing worse than leaving all of the cleaning till the end, just to find all of the dirt has solidified making your mixing bowl or oven tray ten times harder to clean.

Teaching children to tidy up as they go is also a valuable life lesson. Not to mention it might save you some time in the rest of the house as well. Imagine a world where tripping over loose toys and clothes was a thing of the past. Maybe one day…

2. Make it into a game

Making cleaning up fun stops it becoming the dreaded part of cooking. Set a timer each time and see if you and your little ones can beat it. One thing that works really well is a colours game. Ask them to find everything of a certain colour and put it away or bring it to you. Keep score and let them know how well they've done!

After cleaning is done, a little reward might be in order - of course depending on how well behaved they are! It could even be a sneaky taste of the creation you've just made together.

3. Use a checklist

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A checklist gives them something to follow, whilst simultaneously helping you all to keep track. It sets out exactly what you all need to do, and you'll all get a satisfying feeling as you tick off each item. It's a great learning tool and, once it's been used a few times, you won't need it anymore and cleaning up will become much quicker!

Using these cooking tips, and our cleaning hacks, will make cooking with your children a much more enjoyable experience. It's great for everyone to get involved in, and creates memories that you'll all remember for years to come.

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