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From Frustration to Fun: Keeping Your Cool When Cooking With Kids

July 21, 2023
Here is a mother depicted with her daughter in the kitchen preparing food items for the blender, showing cooking with kids can be fun.

If you’ve been following my culinary escapades with the kids, you might think it’s all smooth sailing. But let me set the record straight: frustration is no stranger to this cooking with kids adventure. Welcome to my kitchen, where the chaos is just as real as the mouthwatering aromas.

Yes, I’m an advocate for parents bonding with their little chefs-in-training, but I’ll admit, there are moments when I kindly, and sometimes unkindly, ask my sous chefs to take a break. It’s not something I’m proud of, and the guilt tugs at me, but I’m only human, after all.

We all have those days – the ones where recipes collide, and tempers flare. Don’t fret it.

In the kitchen, I usually have multiple recipes running through my head at once, each one demanding my attention. A simple interruption, a misplaced utensil, or a spilled ingredient can send my well-orchestrated symphony of flavors totally off-key.

Suddenly, I find myself overcooking, forgetting ingredients, or leaving something raw – one mini-disaster after another. Stress begins to bubble, and my once patient and kind voice may waver. The result? An imperfectly prepared meal and a less-than-pleasant cooking experience.

It affects everyone in the family, and it’s time to find a solution – not to point fingers, but to establish boundaries and embrace flexibility.

A woman resting her head on her clenched fist, face down and eyes closed, at the kitchen counter filled with incomplete meal prep depicting the stress of cooking with kids.

Juggling Emotions While Cooking with Kids

In the middle of the pots and pans, little hands reaching and tugging, voices squealing, there’s an array of emotions just simmering beneath the surface. Can you relate to any of this?

As the kitchen chaos unfolds, I can feel my anxiety rising. It’s like a ticking time bomb, with each second feeling more intense than the last. I’m juggling multiple tasks while trying to manage my children’s excitement and curiosity, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

When the kids start grabbing at ingredients, arguing with each other (or me), and even throwing a temper tantrum, frustration surges within me. In those moments, I wonder if it’s worth trying to cook at all.

I notice my patience slipping away as I try to keep up with the kids’ demands while also tending to the stove. The feeling of rushing through the cooking process takes away from the joy I usually find in preparing meals.

The prospect of preparing the next meal can feel daunting after a particularly chaotic experience in the kitchen. I dread the conflicts and the battles that might ensue.

But, here’s the thing – there is no perfect kitchen scenario, and I’ve learned to embrace the chaos as part of the journey. The kitchen is not just a place to whip up delicious meals; it’s a space for learning, bonding, and having fun with my children.

So, I’ve adopted a few strategies that have transformed those moments of frustration into opportunities for growth and cherished memories. Let me share with you how I’ve learned to navigate this culinary chaos and work on my frustrations in the kitchen with my kids by my side.

Set Aside Special Kitchen Moments

I’ve found that setting aside specific moments to cook with the kids, outside of regular meal prep times, can work wonders. Snack time is an ideal opportunity for this culinary adventure. When we have a stress-free block of time to engage in food experimentation and preparation, we can all enjoy the process without rushing.

By doing this regularly, the kids become accustomed to having dedicated kitchen time with me, making it easier to avoid interruptions during meal prep.

Engage in Early Prep

The key to avoiding mealtime interruptions is to get the kids involved in the early preparation stages. If there’s an ingredient they can wash, cut, or blend, plan for it!

Starting the prep process early and giving them age-appropriate tasks keeps them occupied and satisfied. It also takes away the stress of having them mess around in the kitchen while I’m focused on cooking. Plus, it’s a positive bonding experience before I ask them to leave the kitchen, if necessary.

A brother and sister helping to prepare a meal for the family doing age appropriate tasks.

Assign Them a Culinary Task

Assigning each child a specific culinary task to complete while I handle the primary cooking is a win-win situation. For instance, I might designate my son to prepare a simple appetizer, such as peeling and topping hard-boiled eggs, while my daughter gets to put together a plate of fruits or snacking vegetables. This gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership, and it keeps them engaged in the cooking process. While they take their time with their tasks, I can focus on the rest of the meal preparation without interruptions.

A picture of a toddler in the kitchen appearing confused with egg dripping from her face, an indication to parents not to stress the mess of cooking with kids. It will happen.

Don’t Stress the Mess

Embrace the chaos, the flour storms, and the occasional eggsplosions (as my daughter here can attest to) – it’s all part of the culinary adventure!

When things get messy, view it as an opportunity to introduce yet another beautiful life skill – clean up! Keep it light, keep it fun, and joke about the mess. Instead of scolding or talking down to the kids, see it as a chance to teach them responsibility and teamwork.

As they participate in both cooking and cleaning, they develop essential life skills and gain self-confidence. So, teach yourself to laugh through it all; it makes a bigger difference in their minds than you can imagine. Plus, it helps you feel better, reduces your own anxiety, and reflects your ability to cope with unexpected accidents – a lesson they’re learning from you.

Simplify to Enjoy

Let’s face it, tackling a complex multi-course meal with little sous chefs in tow can be overwhelming. If you find yourself experiencing frequent frustrations in the kitchen, consider simplifying your meal planning.

Take some time each week to plan easy, yet nourishing meals that don’t require too many steps. You can also try batch cooking and freezing portion sizes to save time and effort on busy days. By freeing up some of the tasks involved in making a meal, you create a smoother cooking experience. This way, when the kids join in, there’s less to do, which means more time to engage them in small acts of kitchen magic.

Embrace the Joy of Cooking Together

By incorporating these strategies into my kitchen adventures with the kids, I’ve managed to turn moments of frustration into enjoyable and enriching experiences. As they grow, their understanding of the cooking process and appreciation for the effort put into meals also deepen. So, next time you find yourself in a whirlwind of culinary chaos, remember that with a little creativity and flexibility, you can turn those moments into cherished memories in the kitchen with your little ones.

What’s it like at your house with kids in the kitchen? Do you have some tips to share too?

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