Cooking With Children
This material is from a talk I gave to a home-school meeting... I share it with you here to encourage you in your home and training of children in the kitchen.

Cooking with children can be one of the most enjoyable pastimes and pleasurable teaching experiences you’ll have as a mother.   It has been my experience that it’s also one of the most rewarding.  When you take the time to teach your children to cook, you’re investing in their future and you’re passing on a bit of your past. Have you considered that your children are the legacy of your life… they are the epistle of your life.  Whatever you write into them will be read by the world and possibly emulated by many.  Whatever you instill in them today will be the foundation upon which all other things are built.   

O, this is so important… your children need you---you likely cannot begin to fathom the influence you are or that you have in and on their lives.  It truly is immeasurable.   Things you do today will shape their lives---but the sobering thought is: what you don’t do today will shape their lives.  

They will either accept or reject your teaching…. model or disregard your instruction… they will either cherish or despise your teaching and much will depend on the value you’ve placed on them and the time you’ve given them through their lives.  You will either equip them or you will, in a sense, paralyze them.  You will equip them to be creative, hospitable, self-sufficient and gracious
– or –
 you will hinder all those things by not attempting to nurture and foster the growth of those things.

 Tonight we’re focusing on incorporating children in the kitchen and as I share with you, you might begin to wonder why I would spend so much time talking about discipline, training, modeling and foundational things.  I share these things because the actual cooking is a very small part of children preparing meals with you in the kitchen.  I share these things because there are some very important and often overlooked aspects of cooking and baking.  There are foundational activities that will ensure successful cooking.  There are things I’ve learned along the way, things I learned by trial and error---things I’ve taught many children and am in the process of teaching today.  

Think of your daily lives… probably, next to laundry, meal preparation is the most time-consuming activity each day.   And… if it is such a time consuming activity, then probably it’s wise to pay close attention to the specifics and the realities involved.  It’s probably the most noticeable thing you do---but a lot of what goes into the planning, providing and preparation is likely not known or noticed.   This truth is an aspect of homemaking that trips up moms the most… much of the work that that you do, no one sees and therefore it’s not acknowledged.  So here’s what happens when a mom gets tripped up in this area… she tends to feel like she’s the only one doing anything---that no one cares about what she does and then… sometimes begins to believe one of the greatest lies… and that is that what she does is unimportant.  At this point lots of moms give up---thinking it’s not worth it to work for people who don’t care anyway.  OR---she becomes a martyr… “no one will help so I will just do it myself!”  That attitude then permeates other areas of homemaking and then she is beaten down in the battle and loses her joy.  But then there are some moms who see the reality that the planning, providing and preparation is likely not known or noticed and she sets about training up her children… she sets about incorporating them in the process and begins to build in them a foundation that will stand firm and set them in good stead all through their lives.  She is the wise woman who builds her house.

The reality is that everyone needs to eat.  Most everyone likes to eat and most everyone has, to one degree or another,  fond memories of special meals, traditional favourite family dinners or, even food preparation---even washing dishes and clean-up.

So let’s talk about the atmosphere in your home for a moment.   I guess I can’t stress enough the importance of atmosphere in your home---particularly in your kitchen.  Your children will want to be with you there if it’s pleasant to be there and they *won’t* want to be---if it’s not! 

You can do a lot of things to make it nice to be there but amazingly you can also give a do not disturb message by the way you behave or the way you interact with your children in the kitchen.  You can make it enjoyable or shear  drudgery to cook.   You can make cleaning: enjoyable or dreadful. 

You can make presentation: warm and welcoming or you can make it a trial.  

You see? 

You have a tremendous responsibility----it’s weighty, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome.   

You know, the LORD tells us to take His yoke upon us… that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Now if you’ve ever seen an actual yoke, you’ll know that it is firm and steadfast.  You know that a yoke keeps oxen or cattle in line and when the oxen are pulling together, the result is impressive.  But if the oxen are pulled, they tend to resist; if they’re driven to hard, they become weary and unproductive.  Now, I don’t mean to suggest that a mother is like a yoke and children are like oxen (though you  might draw your own conclusions, there), what I do mean to imply is: the working together to accomplish the work and produce great results… and that the working together is actually very bonding… like a yoke.  I say bonding, not bondage. 

You can do a great deal to make the work easy and the burden light. 

Now… I’m not suggesting that every child will enjoy cooking so much that they’ll want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating magnificent meals, or even that they’ll naturally be great cooks, but I do firmly believe that food preparation is one of the most basic and needful activities of our lives. 

It is the very practical part of hospitality ---- and hospitality is mentioned numerous times in the Word as a necessary and meaningful thing… in fact, it is a gift and a directive for the members of the body of Christ.

Romans 12.5-13
”So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.   Having then gifts differing  according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;   Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;   Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.   Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.   Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;   Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;   Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;  Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”

1Peter 4.9: Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 

It is a measure of a man seeking the office of an elder, or bishop

See: 1Timothy 3.2,  Titus 1.8  

 Okay… so here we go.  Probably the most important message I hope you’ll glean tonight is the need to make  Spending Time  with your children a treasured priority!   

Make time for them… Plan time with them and guard time with them! 
Make them a welcome part of your life---they’ll know if they are  ---And--- they’ll know it if they aren’t

They’ll be painfully aware if they’re just tolerated and joyfully aware if they’re precious to you.  

It’s never too early to begin  AND never too late to start working together with your children on anything---especially cooking in the kitchen.  The motivation will be there no matter the age if you make it fun or interesting and if you meet their need at the time. 

You’re not going to entice a teenage boy with the same food that will delight a preschooler.  The teenager will know he’s really not cooking anything important if he’s just stirring the milk into the pancake batter.  But teach him to make a great chocolate chip cookie or pizza and you’ll have an eager, competent cook! 

Cooking is rewarding if you make it interesting.   Little children need fewer ingredients and less time required for preparation of the recipe.  Older children need to be encouraged to try new things---starting simple and working to more difficult recipes.  

If it’s their first time actually in the kitchen to do more than make toast or stir hot cereal, you’re going to need to still attend to them, sort of for direction and supervision. 

Believe me,
Your future daughters-in-law will thank you for well-trained husbands.  Your future sons-in-law will praise you if your daughters can cook well.  Really… these may seem like old – fashioned traits or qualities… but as we read in Proverbs 31, we see that the virtuous woman knew the value of food for her household.  Ask any man, and he’ll readily share that he’d be pleased to have a wife who could cook delicious meals.

I’d like to talk about another aspect of working with you in the kitchen.  Were you to ask most any one of our children, what’s the most important aspect of working in the kitchen--- Yes!  they’d readily tell you: the clean up. 

If your children see that clean-up is as important as the food preparation, they will learn early to make things easier for themselves when preparing meals or even simple snacks or desserts.   

You see, it’s that way with many things… ask a painter what’s one of the most important aspects of painting and they’ll tell you that the care and clean-up of their brushes is paramount to their art… or a house painter, his rollers and brushes.  A beautician, her rollers, combs and scissors.   A surgeon, his medical and surgical equipment and operating room.  A landscaper, his machinery, mowers, brooms and yards.  A mechanic: his tools, socket sets, etc.   Clean-up is a very high priority in most any profession… ask a Waste Management employee.  I share these examples so that you’ll have some ammunition in your belt for reasons why cleanliness is so vital. 

Well…. So,  they need to have an understanding of cleanliness and order… that’s why I share that in order to have children cooking with you in the kitchen, they’ve first got to have some basics down.  They need to be able to grasp that the quality of the ingredients and the careful preparation is enhanced only by the presentation of the meal.  When they know that presentation is vital to the enjoyment of the meal, they will work hard at preparing the food properly and serving it with careful attention to detail. 

I know many women who’ve wanted to have their children cook with them, or to learn to prepare meals for the family, that they jump right in to the actual preparation of a full meal and expect the child to take on the full responsibility of the sometimes monumental task, only to experience the frustration that their inexperience produces and the result is exactly opposite of their original expectation.

 So, how do you get children to cook with you… spend time with you, etc., etc.?

I firmly believe that if you will make work a normal part of every day and if you will encourage and expect good work, you will receive or reap the benefits of children who know how to work and know how to enjoy working. 

As in most every single aspect of parenting… if you expect your children to be going in a direction, you need to be going there first.  You cannot expect them to go where you are not willing to go or to do what you’re not willing to do.  It’s as true with cooking as it is with any other area of child-training. 

If you’re not joyful about the activities of your home, then they won’t be either.  You’ll actually be teaching them to groan if you’re groaning.  You’ll teach them to murmur if you’re murmuring about work.  They’ll see that they don’t really need to attend to things if you don’t.  So let them see you work and let them see you do it willingly.

And then… expect them to join you… to work alongside you and eventually they’ll work alone---doing work unsupervised as you work unsupervised. Teach them the great value of work.  Teach them to do it because it’s right to do. 

Colossians 3.23  “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” 

Your definition will likely be different than another woman’s definition of what work needs to be done and how.  But do work and do it well.  If you aim low, they’ll shoot low---but if you aim high, they’ll shoot high.  If you try to make things nice for them, they’ll appreciate things done nicely and want to maintain that level of attention to detail. 

If you’re careless, you’ll likely produce careless children---conversely, if you’re uptight and demanding, you’ll likely not help them grow but rather, you’ll squash productivity in your children.  You’ll beat them down and they’ll be withdrawn and will likely seek affirmation elsewhere---and they’ll find it. 

Children can learn to work and they can accomplish far more than you might give them credit.  But they need to be trained… and training takes time---lots of time  and if you want them to be with you in the kitchen, then, at least initially,  you need to be with them in their chores, too. 

Here’s an example. You can tell a child to go clean her room and you can go back there a dozen times and see very little progress.   Some children can spend an entire day doing what appears to be nothing-------------the job is hopeless, the child is apathetic,  and you’re frazzled by all the attempts to coerse the child to work.  But if you, early on, will spend time *showing* how to break a job down into parts, show how to fold, show how to stack clothing, show how to hang clothes, show how to order books and papers and if you have set things in a way to be easy to maintain and if you have spent time together working on it, you will instill a strong work ethic in your child… and it will be a foundation for other work.  I have seen this time and time again with many different temperaments of children.

You won’t get good results if you don’t expect good results!  

So, I’d suggest that before you can expect children to cook with you in the kitchen, they need to work with you on other things.  Now, it may seem like I’m getting way off topic here, but stay with me and you’ll see where I’m going with all this.  As you know from teaching children academics, you cannot teach them math skills or expect them to do even basic math lessons without first introducing the basics.  They cannot be expected to move into reading chapter books unless they can read simple words and beginning readers. 

It’s this way in our lives, even spiritually… we grow in grace.  We go from strength to strength.   As we know the LORD, we teach Him and Him crucified.

Psalms 78.4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

Okay… so we work together building on the foundation we’ve begun laying. 


2Peter 1.5-8
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

You’re already working on basic academic skills… and so, as the Word says…  

I’d pick a couple of areas and I’d work to get good results. And when I saw that I was getting good results in an area, I’d add some other responsibilities.  All the while, I’d be adding a specific kitchen job here and another kitchen job there.    And all the while, I’d be complimenting them on a neat job, a careful job, a clever job; I’d be telling them I proud of the way they do things or that I sure like the idea they had or whatever.

I’d suggest that you have them on a chair at the sink washing dishes with you from an early age so that they are very accustomed to handling the dishes. Do the glasses and sharp items and then allow them to do the bowls and plates.  Spend the time teaching how this is done.   Be patient with them… it really will build patience in you.  Do not become exasperated with your child… he’s learning and will soon be proficient at the little and can handle more. 

Your child will then be very comfortable with the dishes and then they can move on to another level of responsibility in the kitchen.  Truly---contrary to what you think now…   it is NOT easier to do it yourself.  Yes, today it would get done better and it SEEMS that it would be easier if you do it, but tomorrow your child will be where they are today… and your kitchen will be clean and your meal will be lovely, and they will have done nothing to get it that way and will have not contributed to something in your life and you will not have invested in theirs. 

So, in the long run, it is not easier to do it yourself.   

From the time our oldest children were very young, I would have them helping me in the kitchen.  I worked with them and I set things up so that they could accomplish basic tasks.  This is very important when it comes to actually cooking recipes, baking cakes or cookies or preparing a whole meal.

For example:  I have all the dishes in a place that even very young children can access.  They can get the bowls or plates at breakfast, they can set the table at meal time, they can unload the dishwasher----all the while, learning to care for things in the kitchen, keep things orderly (again, your level of order and/or cleanliness will likely differ from someone else’s).  If you expect them to take care of things, they will and if they’re accustomed to handling breakable things from a young age, they will likely appreciate and care for other things in the same manner.  If they’re expected to keep things in a certain place, they’ll likely do that in other areas.  Because you are expecting them to be responsible with things, they likely will be.  Expect though, that things will get broken… and when they do, help clean up the mess and move on.  Depending on the number of children you have, you’ll likely go through lots of dishes through the years.  You’ll be saying a lot to them by the way you handle accidents and messes.  I’m talking legitimate accidents---not carelessness or foolishness.  Those things need to be addressed in a different manner---and sometimes correction and discipline are in order for those sorts of calamities.

I would think to allow an undisciplined child to work in the kitchen is asking for trouble---and the trouble is not just for the waste or the damage that could result, but, also, for the child’s personal safety.

When you know your child is conscious of potential dangers in the kitchen, you’ll be able to teach him to mix and bake foods without worrying about those things.  If you have a child who is careless, that tendency will carry over into the kitchen and I’d say you’d be wise to just keep working on those problems---turning the weaknesses into strengths. 

But, just like I shared about not succumbing to the temptation to do it all yourself, don’t be tempted to just ignore the problems and hope they go away----they won’t go away.   They will be the fodder for other problems, other areas of weakness to grow.

Undisciplined children or unruly children can be trained and they can become delightful to be around and a pleasure to work with---it’s just something we, as mothers, need to set our minds to doing… working daily with those children.  I assure you, there is a grief that is very hard to bear and it’s an undisciplined child.

Proverbs 10.1  “… A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”

Proverbs 29.15  “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

So… the children, being trained in other areas can begin to have some personal responsibilities in the kitchen. 

So what about actually getting children involved in the cooking?

Probably many would say to start with things they like.  Typically, this would seem to be something like cookies or boxed brownies.  But, I’d like to suggest that you begin with simple processes like stirring… stirring the pudding or jello, stirring the oatmeal or pouring the milk into the pancake batter. 

Depending on the age of the child, the experience they have and the willingness they’ve demonstrated, I’d suggest that you give them responsibility to prepare the dinner salad…. Or have them help by chopping the vegetables for soup. 

They can prepare a dessert or make smoothies or whatever is a commonly prepared food at your home.  If they’ve seen you prepare it many times, it will come very easy to them. 

Your whole goal is to prepare them for their life in the future, to prepare them to serve others and to teach them the disciplines of preparing nutritious foods.  If you will teach them this, you will equip them well for their future home.  They’ll not depend on fast food restaurants, prepared meals or boxed dinners. 

If they know how to prepare a snack for guests, or a quick lunch for the family,  or a fancy dinner for a special occasion, they’ll gain confidence to do other things in life as well… it’s no secret that success breeds success.

They’ll appreciate well planned and well prepared foods and want to make them themselves---especially if they’ve eaten a meal at a nice restaurant and have tasted properly fixed meats, salads, desserts, vegetables or breads.  If they know how things are to be prepared, and have seen how they’re presented, they’ll have an appreciation for attention to detail.  They’ll be given to hospitality.

Having said all that… I’d hasten to say… let them fail.  Let them try new things and let them fail.  They’ll get it… it make take a few times, but they’ll get it.

They may need a gentle reminder to read carefully. Read the instructions. If they trust you in their schoolwork, they’ll trust you in the kitchen---by this, I mean: When they fail at their math lesson, it’s generally because they’ve not read the directions---plain and simple.  So… you gently correct and train.  Correct and teach.   Same thing in the kitchen.   When they fail at preparing a recipe, it’s generally because they’ve not read the directions carefully---plain and simple---they got in a hurry and didn’t pay attention.  Another reason is that they’ve missed some basic skills………… simply enough, you can correct this, too.  Generally, it’s a math skill or a reading skill.

Be willing to take the time to teach-----------teach, don’t tease.  Show love...   That’s what we all need to do --- Show love.  Let them fail… and let them try to remedy the situation and stand back to allow it. Sometimes you’ll need to step in and let them know it’s okay to stop---that they need to begin again.  If they make a mistake, and they seem receptive, help them through it... show them where their trouble spot was.  Lovingly show them how to do it or how to correct it.  If they've made a mistake, don't mock them... don't make fun of them.  Don't succumb to the stupid and arrogant behaviour common today.  Don't call the bread a brick... don't call the cookies hockey pucks, don't call the pudding sludge or any other mean-spirited thing.

I've told our children many times stories of my dad and a company he once owned that made soups and sauces and dressings for restaurants and how there were many times when someone failed to follow a recipe correctly and they’d have to pull the plug on 50 gallons of soup……….

Let them fail… and be there to remind them that everyone makes mistakes… it’s all going to work out.  That will carry you a very very long way… because that principle will spill over into every area of their life.  They need to be able to fail and keep going.  They need to know that you will be there…  and it’s all okay.


Set up your kitchen to accommodate cooking.  A kitchen isn’t for show.  A home is not for show.  Showpieces are for magazines.  Children don’t live in magazines, they live in homes… they don’t grow in magazines, they grow in homes.  They grow where they’re nurtured and then they nurture where they grow.   Very simple.  But very hard for many moms and dads… hard to set things up for children to learn… for children to practice.

Don’t fret over messes---it’s not worth it!  There will be another one tomorrow and another one every day for ever… as long as there are children in the home.

 So then… more ideas for you.

Set your kitchen up into baking centers or sandwich preparation area or dinner foods preparation area or whatever.  Set up your cooking and baking and measuring utensils into easily accessed areas----this will make the activity run more smoothly and they’ll want to spend time where the equipment is ready for them.

Set your kitchen up with basic supplies… it’s amazing how creative children will be and become when they know they are welcome to cook and welcome to explore in the kitchen.   Just give your stuff to Jesus… let Him take care of it for you… then whatever happens, you’ll just rest knowing that you’re doing what’s best for the children and for their future homes and families. 

We have, in our kitchen, most all the time baking supplies for just about any recipe they decide to make.  We have branched out with different unusual ingredients. 

I have attempted to let them make anything they want to make.  I try not to squelch creativity.  But one thing I’ve not allowed is playing in the food…  Until they’re really good with recipes, I’ve not allowed them to just throw things in a bowl and see what happens… I think that fosters foolishness and teaches irresponsibility.  I don’t let them do that with other things, so, I don’t let them do that with food. 

That’s what I mean about laying a good foundation and teaching children to be responsible.

I then work to show them how to present or serve the foods they’ve prepared.  This is generally done over and over… always allowing them input and creativity.  They’ve learned to be hospitable as they’ve learned to prepared things according to a family member’s or guest’s preference.     

As they learn to serve, they’ll greatly desire to serve more because they’ll get a grasp of what the LORD meant when He said “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23.11 

As your daughters become accustomed to preparing and serving, the tendency to have a Martha mind/heart will be replace with a Mary mind/heart and the serving will not be cumbersome to them.

You see, have children cook with you in the kitchen

It’s not just a fun way to spend time together, though it is…
It’s not just a great way to build the skill of following directions, though it is…
It’s not just a great way to reinforce math and reading skills, though it is…
It’s not just a great way to build hospitality skills, though it is… 

It teaches the necessity of ministering to the needs of others.  

We have to keep our eye on the goal… the goal is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’ll never be able to do all these things or that this job is too difficult… may I ask you to join me in trusting the LORD...

 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33