Toria Frederick — the fabulous mama of the amazing Julian, who together are behind the Step Stool Chef — offers some great advice for all of us to keep in mind.
“Part of what I’m trying to do is make cooking more approachable,” she says. Yes, please! She also has ideas to help make it less stressful for us parents.
Think about cooking like any other kids' activity. It’s important to be in the right mind-set to cook, Toria says. “Think of it like an arts and crafts activity,” she says. Set out everything just like you would set out paper and glitter and glue. Think about cooking as an opportunity to create something and have fun, rather than a must-do chore.
Pick a good time for you. It’s important especially in the early days, Toria says, that you pick a day and time that work for you. If you’re chill on a Sunday morning, let the kids help do brunch. If you’re a crazy, stressed-out mess after work on Fridays, don’t make that the day you cook together.
Plan ahead and prep. As kids get older, Toria points out, they can help pull out the ingredients and measure. But for little kids, you’ll want to have ingredients pre-measured and ready to go. That will keep them focused (and their short little attention spans optimized) and you sane.
Find the fun. Look, kids don’t know that cooking can be a chore. For them, it’s fun. So, help them find the fun. Whether it’s cracking eggs or popping peas, help little ones identify tasks that they enjoy and can do. She once had her son Julian make a homemade whipping cream by shaking the cream in a jar — so much fun!
Embrace autonomy, and celebrate wins. One day, Julian came home and told Toria, “Mommy, I got dinner.” She sat back and let him, answering any questions he had. “It was great, and I was very proud of him.” When kids can say, “I made that,” they are pleased with themselves. So, embrace that independence, Toria says, and empower them.