Kids in the Kitchen this Christmas
Cooking is part of the fun of the Christmas season. Getting your kids in the kitchen is a good way to drag in some extra help with the food preparation this year. Once you don’t mind a bit more mess than might happen if you were working alone, especially with younger kids, the camraderie and bonding is worth the effort! Helping to stir up the Christmas pud or Cake, or making edible Christmas treats is the stuff of reminiscence in later years.
There’s lots of stuff kids can do to help in the kitchen at Christmas time. Here’s a list of food jobs you can dole out according to age group.
THREE TO EIGHT YEAR OLDS
Obviously, this is the age group that needs the most supervision.
• Young children can help stir the mix for fairy cakes and fill bun cases. And they get to lick the bowl afterwards! Ok, so there might be more mix ending up on the floor than in the bun cases, but it will be worth it to see their proud faces when their tray of buns comes out of the oven.
Then let the decorating begin. Simple glace icing can be left white to be like snow, or coloured Christmassy red or green.
Invest in silver and gold balls, hundreds and thousands and other edible festive cake decorations to keep them occupied for hours. Take them shopping to choose their own decorations. Get them excited to help! You’re not looking for perfect buns here. Just some healthy participation in helping with the food, which might become a family tradition as they grow up.
• Seven and eight year olds are big enough to make and roll the pastry for the mince pies. Think of the free maths tuition you’ll be giving them, as they learn about weights and measures while making something delicious to eat! They’ll have fun rolling out the pastry, cutting the bases and lids and filling the pies before baking.
EIGHT YEAR OLDS TO YOUNG TEENS
The perfect age for kids to develop a love of cooking.
• Get them to make a batch of salad dressing, by measuring out the ingredients into a jam jar and giving them a good shake. It’s dead easy for older kids to do this. And you get a jar of dressing to keep in the fridge for whenever you need it over the Christmas period. Result.
• Grating the vegetables for salads and slaws is another good chore for older kids. This can also be a sneaky way of introducing them to vegetables they may not usually eat.
• Quiche is a great Christmas standby and teens can help with this. Rolling out pastry and whisking up the filling is very manageable for this age group. The fun starts when they want to get creative with the fillings. Peanut Butter and Jam Quiche, anyone...? It could catch on.
• Mixing up the Christmas pudding or cake is another job this age group can do. They can weigh out the fruit, stir the mix and even pack it into cake tins or pudding bowls. Parental supervision essential if your family cake or pudding mix contains alcohol.
• Making chocolate truffles is a great job for this age group. Hands will get sticky, but think of the fun!
If your older teens are reluctant to do anything in the kitchen under normal circumstances, Christmas might be the chance to get them interested.
This age group are perfectly capable of cooking most things.
• The secret is to pitch the tasks according their food tastes. Get them making enchiladas, chunky burgers, and pizzas for movie nights in over the Christmas hols. If they like to eat the food, the chances are they might like to make the food. Try our burger recipes to start them off.
• For older teens who already have an interest in cooking, give them responsibility for one part of the Christmas meal. Whether it’s getting the nibbles ready and plated, making the first course, taking charge of the vegetables or sorting out an alternative dessert to the Christmas pud. If any of the kids are vegetarian or you have vegetarian guests coming, perhaps one of your older teens would like to create the veggie option. A great way to get them involved in preparing Christmas Dinner for everyone and get heaped with praise for what they have produced.
THE BIG CLEAN UP
As any chef knows, the clean up is just as important as the cooking. It’s never too early to teach kids how to clean up after themselves in the kitchen. For youngsters it might mean sweeping the floor or wiping table tops. Older kids and teens can load the dishwasher, wash up pots and pans, dry up cutlery and crockery and put it away. The basic rules of keeping the kitchen tidy as they work and making sure everything is washed up AND put away afterwards, are simple household tasks that will be carried into their adult lives.