What I learned about cooking with kids

There once was a time when I really enjoyed cooking. Like legit, make everything from scratch, loved it. Back before Food Network was overrun with cooking competitions, baking challenges, and Guy Fieri, I loved watching my favorite TV cooking personalities procure interesting ingredients from their gardens or the local markets and create beautifully prepared meals for guests—dreaming of how one day I’d recreate those dishes in my own kitchen, in my own home. As a kid, I remember hiding in the musty smelling stacks at the library flipping through a pile of cookbooks, dog-earing my favorite recipe photos.

Girl cracks egg on a stovetop griddle while man looks apprehensively

Now with young children of my own, I realize my mother was secretly praying those cookbooks would stay at the library instead of coming home with us for another disastrous cooking experiment that would inevitably result in every single bowl, kitchen utensil, and counter surface covered in some sort of batter. And of course there would always be just one step skipped or ingredient missing resulting in some rather questionable baked goods, inevitably ending up in my poor father’s lunch bag for the week.

Woman’s hands help boy crack egg into bowl.

My cooking skills have improved since my early days of culinary expression. But I’ve got to say, after becoming a mom, cooking has since felt like an exhausting marathon of minuscule decisions while being bombarded by a plethora of conflicting nutritional and parenting information.

What am I cooking for the week? Did I really just spend $$ on groceries? Are they eating enough vegetables? What other ways can I prepare said vegetables so my family will eat them? Are they getting enough protein? Do I really need to buy organic? Did that $10 pack of organic strawberries I bought 2 days ago really just go bad?? Do I cook something healthy that they probably won’t eat, or just heat up some chicken nuggets?

Two girls prepares bacon on a baking sheet

Setting healthy boundaries for our children is an important part of parenting—a gentle reminder that maybe less is more when it comes to maple syrup instead of the usual deluge they usually dump on their pancakes? But what we if focused less on food=fuel for consumption, and just. slowed. down.

Girl licks finger while woman stirs contents of bowl

While we do prepare food in order to eat it, there is so much more to living than just consuming calories to replenish our bodies. Food has a multitude of tastes and smells; an array of textures, colors, and even sounds that can make any mouth water. The crackling sound of breaking a freshly baked loaf of crusty bread, the fragrant smell of a freshly cut ripened pineapple, the smooth powdery feeling of flour while kneading a squishy, stretchy dough. Kids seem to innately understand this concept (part of the magic that happens when they are allowed to be bored), fully embracing food with all 5 of their senses, often having zero qualms running their fingers through a grainy clump of brown sugar, or diving their hands into a newly mixed bowl of pancake mix.

Child’s hand covered in brown sugar

Despite my regular grumpiness about cooking that I so desperately try to suppress, my girls still manage to LOVE cooking with me. They’re determined to cut and peel vegetables despite me helicoptering over their knife skills, and still both fight over who get’s to stir anything cooking on the stove. This gives me hope that despite my crazy internal cooking dialogue, there is a part of me that still remembers that life is a journey, not the destination. That no matter how the meal tastes, the process and memories of making the meal with my family is far more sustaining and fulfilling than any 5 star dish.

Do you have any memories of cooking as a child? What recipes do you enjoy cooking with your own children? Are you ready for me to photograph your family cooking adventures? Let’s chat!