Breakdown Of Communication- Help Your Child WANT To Talk to You

8 Step Breakdown of Communication- Help your Child WANT to Talk to You

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This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated 2/8/2019

 

All kids struggle with communication. It’s true. But it’s not their fault.

If you think about it, their only means of communicating as infants is to cry, and then they slowly learn words. But that’s not all! They still have to learn how culture affects communication, how people interact differently depending on the situation they are in, as well as reading other people’s social cues in order to participate in the dance of communication.

Honestly, I’ve met plenty of adults who still haven’t mastered all these communication skills. I wouldn’t say that I’m good at all of them.

woman wearing black and white shirt looking above

***Why is Communication so Tricky??***

Miscommunications constantly happen between adults. If there is an immediate consequence, we realize the miscommunication right away. If not, the misunderstanding can go undetected with each person assuming they understood the other correctly. 

And this is adults we’re talking about! They have years of experience communicating with others. You’d think we’d have it down a little better.

But we don’t. Because communication is very, very complex. How can we expect kids to be pros at it? 

Now let’s look at this from the kid’s perspective.

  • He’s barely learning the English language.
    • This applies no matter how old the child is. English is complicated. Even if the child knows words, there is a whole mountain of phrases, idioms, and other not-so-obvious things about speaking English. I assume other languages have similar confusing things, but since I only speak English, I won’t speak to that.
  • He’s still learning about body language and how it impacts the overall message that a speaker is conveying. (Click the image below)

The Dictionary of Body Language: A Field Guide to Human Behavior

What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People

  • He’s still learning about tone of voice. This is most often confusing when adults use sarcasm and the child takes it literally.
  • He’s learning how to distinuish sarcasm. This is a tricky one because we use sarcasm a lot. Like, a lot. We often don’t even notice we are using it. (Click the image below)

The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm: A Lexicon for Those of Us Who Are Better and Smarter Than the Rest of You

The sarcasm is strong with this one

Blittzen Mens Zero Days Without Sarcasm, L, Charcoal

  • He’s learning that his culture has unique requirements for being socially appropriate.
    • Boundaries- how close to stand to other people
    • Interrupting
    • Humor
    • Who you may or may not talk to (depending on the culture, this might depend on gender, status, etc.)
    • How to change your communication style depending on who you are speaking with
  • He’s learning the makeup of a conversation.
    • Taking turns speaking
    • Staying on Topic
    • Showing your interest in what another person is saying
    • How to clarify if you don’t understand what a person is saying

girl covering her face with both hands

Recently, a friend told me this story about her 5 year old daughter.

My friend was sitting on the couch brushing out her child’s hair. They were getting ready to leave the house for the day.

My friend had just had a baby and also has 3 other kiddos running around. Her husband is so kind and wanted to make sure she was all taken care of, so he asked her if there was anything she needed him to do before he got in the shower. Just to make sure she wasn’t left to the wolves for the next 15 minutes or so. (I know, awwwwww!!!)

Anyways, this led to some playful sexy banter…. The husband says “Or maybe you can get in the shower with me?” in a cute, teasing voice. The parents both laugh and wink at each other.

Everyone thought that the little girl wouldn’t know what they were talking about, so no harm done.

Well, that is half right.

A few minutes go by as the girl thinks the situation over.

Then out of nowhere, she asks mom (who has already forgotten about it all), “Mommy, did daddy forget how to shower?!”

Hahahahaha! Yep, that’s the only logical explanation of why daddy would want mommy to get in the shower with him. He must have forgotten how to do it himself.

Kids are cute!!

Basically, I’m saying these poor kids often misunderstand OUR message to them, so how are they supposed to learn from our communication styles and methods in order to communicate THEIR message to us??

It’s no wonder that kids get upset and tantrum when they can’t express themselves!

Here’s my tips on how to help your child with this problem so that they can grow up to be one of the few adults that can actually convey their ideas respectfully and intelligently.

two person writing on paper on brown wooden table

***Why can’t Kids Express Themselves without Getting Upset?***

First of all, these poor kids’ brains aren’t developed yet. Well, I mean they are develop-ING but that’s a lot different from develop-ED. Actually, our brains aren’t fully developed until around age 25- with girls usually maturing a little earlier than boys.

On top of that, emotional regulation is one of the toughest thing for little ones to master. Again, this is complex enough that plenty of adults haven’t mastered emotional regulation either.

So, give them a break just for that.

Second, communication is complicated. But we’ve already discussed that. Remember- there’s language, body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and lots more.

This is all a learned art- one that some people just never learn. Most people learn enough to get by. And just a few get really good at it. I hope I can be one of those few eventually.

And lastly- it’s hard to learn to communicate when you’re learning from imperfect models. Remember how not all adults communicate well? Well, now consider trying to learn from those exact adults?

When we think of it this way, it’s no wonder children often get upset when they try to express themselves to adults. My poor daughter is picking up on my own communication problems.

Ouch…. I’ve got to step up my game….

As always, imperfect parenting isn’t the end of the world. This is just a call to do your best.

woman holding baby sitting on green grass field under sunset

This all makes sense, but it’s hard to remember when my 1-year old is hitting and screaming because she can’t tell me what she wants.

Of course, I feel bad for her. I understand that she doesn’t know any better. But sooner or later, as a parent, I have to deal with this.

***How do I do that??? How do I teach my children to communicate effectively and appropriately?!***

1. We’ve learned that the first step is understanding. Empathize with your child. 

Check! Now what?

Keep reading!

 2. Listen First

There are lots of ways to listen.

I know, it seems straight forward- someone says words, the words float through the air in the form of sound vibrations, those vibrations are picked up by my ears and interpreted in my brain.

Voila! Done.

As it turns out, listening is kinda complex.

  • There’s listening where you are trying to solve the person’s problem for them,
  • there’s listening where you are trying to get information from the person,
  • there’s listening just because it’s the polite thing to do,
  • there’s listening where you are more focused on forming your response than hearing what the person is saying….

(Click the image below for a great resource on how to listen!)
The Lost Art of Listening, Second Edition: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

When a parent is talking to a child, their goal should be to honestly hear the child’s message- not solve the problem. Here’s how:

  • Give the kid all of your attention. Like, all of it. No TV. No Cell phone. Nothing distracting you from them.
  • Hear what they are saying and DON’T JUDGE… yet. Why not yet? Because it is your job as a parent to judge sometimes.

brown wooden gavel

For example, let’s say the child’s problem is that her boyfriend wants her to have sex and she isn’t sure if she wants to (first of all, good for you for having the type of relationship where your child would tell you that). You feel that she is too young and that this situation is potentially dangerous. If that is the case, then by all means, be a parent and set some boundaries.

But….. save that judgement for AFTER you completely understand your child and their needs first. Don’t just understand but SHOW the child that you understand. 

Maybe, with some carefully worded influence from you, your child will come to the same conclusion all on her own. Because you waited to place judgement, you didn’t rob her of the chance to learn from the situation and come to her own conclusion.

Score for the parent… and for the kid!

3) Clarify the message to make sure you understand- even if you think you already do understand.

Again, miscommunications sneak in without us knowing, so it’s better to check. Here’s how:

  • You can do this by repeating things back in your own words. Then ask if that’s right.
  • You can do this by asking questions to get more information.
  • You can do this by asking the child if you are interpreting their feelings about the situation correctly.

4) Ask the child what they need from you.

They might not know at first- you’ll have to teach them how to think through the options, decide what their needs are, and communicate to you what they need.

I know, kinda sticky. You have to teach about communication in order to communicate, but they have to communicate so that you can do that… Bleh. My head hurts. Here are some great questions to ask to get you through this process: 

  • Do you want me to help you solve the problem?
  • Do you want me to listen without talking?
  • Do you want me to brainstorm ideas that you could try?
  • Do you want me to tell you my opinion or give advice?
  • Do you want me to empathize?
  • Do you want me to learn about you?
  • Do you want me to spend time with you?

woman reaching hand above water during daytime photo

5) Once you know what they want, fulfill that need- even if you want to do something else.

The most common issue I see with this one is when someone just wants you to help them feel better but you want to fix the problem that caused them to feel sad or angry. Hold it in- maybe they already know the solutions, they just need support. This is more common with older children, like teenagers, than younger children, who often need help problem solving.

Fulfilling the child’s unique need before you get around to the “parenting” part shows the child love, support, and encouragement. They feel heard and safe to talk to you in the future. 

6) If the situation calls for some parental intervention, DO IT!

NOW is the right time. You understand your child, you’ve double checked to make sure you understand, you’ve expressed your understanding and love and support.

This is the follow up from step #2.

This is the part where you just might have to make a judgement call as a parent and then follow through with it. Don’t be afraid of this step. You are a parent, and boundaries are necessary.

7) Teaching Communication For the Future

For a lot of people, communication is tough because of one major barrier that we haven’t talked about yet: The other person has to be willing to communicate with you.

In order for this to happen, they need to have a positive relationship with you. If your children don’t respect you or if they don’t think you’re on their side, they won’t talk to you.

NOTICE- I did not say “if your children don’t LIKE you”. Respect is different than like. You want respect. You don’t have to be their best friend- you just have to be a parent.

people holding hands

If you want long-term open communication, put the time and effort into having a positive relationship. Yes, TIME is a big part of that. That means time with the TV off, time without devices, time doing things that the child is interested in, and time one-on-one together.

(Read about our Mother-Daughter Spa Day! This is a great idea for one-on-one time with your child or a group activity to get to know your child and their friends. Or try cooking with your child for consistent, daily one-on-one time.)

Time is hard to come by. But it’s worth it.

Then, remember to be a good example of positive communication. That means keeping your cool, clarifying others’ messages, withholding judgment, you know, all the stuff we’ve already talked about.

Do your best. Then apologize when you mess up. That’s how to be a good example.

man sitting on chair holding and surrounded by people

Sometimes, I stand in my own way of building a strong relationship with my kids… on accident, obviously. Here’s the story of one epiphany about my communications with my daughter.

I was going about my day like any other day. I am a stay at home mom, so that included things like cleaning up the house, doing dishes, starting a load of laundry, running errands, making meals, you know. All the normal stuff.

My little one (about 14 months) wanted me to hold her for what seemed like the entire day.

I would put her down, and she would cry.

I finally found a toy that seemed to interest her. As soon as I walked away, she abandoned the toy to follow me.

The more I tried to get things done, the more she seemed to want me.

I’m sad to say that I didn’t connect the dots that day. Or the next day. Or the next. It took me a week or so to realize a pattern.

I noticed that there was communication going on here that I hadn’t specifically intended, but it was happening anyways. I was telling her that I was too busy to give her attention and she was telling me that she needed me even though I had other things to do.

This stumped me for a while, because I knew that I still needed to divide my time between my daughter and my other responsibilities.

The solution that finally worked for us- Play with my child first, and do chores after. Then, I am communicating that I value our time together. If I put her first, then she doesn’t feel so starved of my attention when I need to do chores so she isn’t so clingy. We both enjoy our day better and I get a lot more accomplished.

silhouette photo of group of people on mountain

Who knew??

Now I want to be clear here because this is a topic that can trigger a lot of that mom guilt– Yes, there other things that require my time. That’s life. Some of my time must go to the house. Some of my time needs to go to my husband, and some of my time needs to go to myself.

With our time being divided so many ways, no wonder children crave it! No wonder time is such a big part of having a relationship with someone. And I want a relationship with my children.

When our actions communicate to our children that they are valued, they will feel secure enough to have open communication with us in the future.

8) Even with a Strong Foundation, Communication Doesn’t Just Happen Magically- So Ask Questions!

So I’ve been working every day on putting my child first in my life. I feel pretty good about our relationship. But, I still don’t feel like she confides in me….

What can I do?

Think about when you confide in other people.

  • Is it usually planned out, or did it just happen?
  • What situations make it more likely that you will talk to someone about something private?
  • How did that person make you feel comfortable enough to share?

Now try to replicate those conditions with your child.

man and girl sitting on bench in park

The common factors that I parents report include:

  • My child confided in me when we had one on one time alone.
  • My child confided in me but I had to bring up the topic first.
  • My child confided in me but I had to dig deeper. First, they told me that they were fine. But I asked more questions. Then they dodged the questions. But I kept at it. And finally they told me.
  • My child confided in me but I had to change the type of questions I ask. I had to ask questions that require more than one word for the answer. Rather than “how was your day?” (“Good.”) I learned to ask “What did you do today?” (Well, at recess, I played with my friend Kyle but he didn’t want to play what I wanted to play…..)
  • My child confided in me but I had to speak respectfully and stay calm about the situation.
  • My child confided in me after I told them that I love them and won’t judge what they say

The reality is that I don’t get much one on one time with my kids. Life is just busy.

When I do get it, I have to train myself to ask questions.

I am more effective if I am aware of what is going on in each child’s life. If I am thinking about specific things about each child, I can more easily think of what to ask about. Plus, it makes the child feel loved that I know this stuff about them.

There’s nothing worse than missing a golden opportunity for no good reason except that I wasn’t paying attention or I wasn’t prepared for it.

***Parenting Is Hard***

But as always, there is always a silver lining to every parenting mistake.

gray clouds with sun rays at daytime

I don’t know what yours is, but here’s a few that I’ve experienced:

  • I didn’t know what was going on in my child’s life, so I asked. I wasn’t prepared beforehand to “dig deeper”, but I gained a lot of knowledge about my child and I connected with her personally by showing interest in her interests.
  • I didn’t have questions ready, so I fumbled for what to say to my child. But she saw that I am human and that I’m trying my best.
  • I didn’t feel comfortable asking more questions because I wasn’t sure how my child would respond. So, instead I just reassured her that I loved her no matter what.
  • My child didn’t appreciate me trying to get to know her. She thought I was being nosy and getting into her business. But she will always know that I care enough to be a parent rather than being a friend. That will mean something to her someday.
  • I had a one-on-one opportunity but I missed it because I was distracted by chores. I just didn’t think about the chance to connect with my child. But the child got to see me working hard.

It is really tough to break habits of behavior like this.

My usual learning curve goes something like this: I fail 10 times (not because I didn’t do it well, just because I FORGOT and resorted to old habits!!) and then on the 11th time I finally remember to try to change my behavior. Then I might not do it well 10 times (assuming I keep remembering to try to change my behavior) and finally after like 50 tries (after I forgot and messed up a bunch more times) I finally make progress.

person's left palm with bandage

No wonder change is slow.

But I’m going to keep trying at it. I hope you keep trying too! 

Remember to take this one step at a time! Choose one thing you’d like to change and focus on that until you’ve mastered it. Then take the next step.

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

Please share with any parent who is trying their best to communicate effectively with their children!

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Top Recipes To Cook With Your Kids To Teach Life Long Cooking Skills

Top 9 Recipes to Cook with your Kids To Teach Life Long Cooking Skills

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This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not! 

Updated 2/6/2019

Every day, I have the same two big items on my to do list- spend time with the kids and make dinner.

I love to get both done at once!

But I was also getting sick of eating cereal for dinner… since that was the only food my kids knew how to help me “make”.

We decided to branch out. I realized that if I really wanted to have more options of what to cook with my kids, I needed to teach them some basic cooking skills! I was excited about this idea, since I knew these skills would become valuable life lessons!!

And I could eat more variety of delicious meals, NOW!

Here are some of my favorite meals or deserts to cook with my kids’ help… along with the life lesson that my kids learned from each cooking experience!

girl eating cereal in white ceramic bowl on table

1) Anything out of a box.

I know, I know…. These things are rarely healthy. But they are easy and yummy! And a great experience for your kids.

And when they go to college, these will probably be their staple food items anyways, so they might as well know how to cook them.

Food out of a box is the best preparation for reading and following a recipe for a child who is beginning to cook. 

It is simplified, has few ingredients, and is easy to follow. Making these easy food items gives kids confidence that they can make more complex foods by following a recipe.

But that’s not all! Kids also learn concepts like:

  • checking to make sure you have the ingredients before you begin cooking,
  • measuring ingredients,
  • substituting ingredients as needed (my kiddo learned this when we realized we were out of butter so we used applesauce in our cookie dough instead!)
  • having appropriate cleanliness in the kitchen,
  • asking questions as they learn!

Here are some of my favorite boxed foods to prepare with my kids:

  • Brownies
  • Cakes
  • Pudding
  • Cookies
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta Salads
  • Mac N Cheese
  • Top Roman (If you’re sick of Top Roman, try adding in fun extras like fresh veggies or meats.)

slice of brownies beside silver strainers

2) Snow Ice Cream

This recipe is usually my kids’ VERY VERY first experience “cooking” with me. They make their own Snow Ice Cream when they are as young as 1 1/2-2 years old.

‘ love it because they get to feel involved and get a taste of making their own food… with absolutely no possibility of getting hurt in the kitchen. No heat, no knives, no worries! 

This recipe is so fun and easy to make! It is seasonal… and dependent on the weather… but if your kids love to make it, you could always substitute shaved ice for the snow.

And of course, (I can’t stress this enough…) make sure your kids are gathering clean snow. 😊

snow-covered tree lot during daytime

Snow Ice Cream

2 cups Clean Snow (or shaved ice)

2-3 Tbsp. Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 drop of Vanilla (or Root Beer Flavoring, or Strawberry Flavoring, or Orange Flavoring, etc…)

First, gather clean snow from outside right after a snowfall. I prefer to set a clean bowl outside during a snowfall. The bowl slowly fills up with perfectly fresh and 100% clean snow. No hoping or guessing that the snow hasn’t been somewhere yucky. If you are going to allow your kids to gather their own snow, this step takes a lot of supervision to make sure the kids aren’t gathering snow from the wrong places.

Second, divide the snow into cups for each child. Add the remaining ingredients and allow the child to stir up his or her ice cream. Add more snow if needed (sometimes the mixture tastes too strong and more snow will remedy this).

That’s it! Ready to eat!

Please note that adding the other ingredients makes the snow more dense than it was to begin with, so you end up with less ice cream than you might think. 2 cups of snow makes about ½ cup of ice cream.

I use this recipe to teach kids the following concepts: 

  • Following mom’s directions in the kitchen
  • Getting creative to make the recipe your own
  • Mixing without spilling
  • Why eating clean food is important (we usually discuss how germs can make us sick and that’s why we wash all the produce mom buys at the store) 

3) Kabobs

people having a barbecue party

Kabobs are so much fun to make with kids!

When kids make kabobs, they learn the following life skills:

  • Early exposure to the concept of being careful because some kitchen tools can hurt you. This is a great pre-lesson before learning to cut with knives.
  • Become familiar with ingredients. Kids learn to recognize and identify a variety of foods that they may cook with later on.
  • More likely to try new foods
  • Choosing between many food options
  • Introduce the concept of cross contamination. Explain that we cook the meat before they touch it so that they don’t cross contaminate fruits and veggies with raw meat.
  • How food changes when it is cooked. Example: raw bell peppers vs. cooked bell peppers.

There are so many options of yummy foods to put on a kabob- cheese, fruit, veggies, meat- so it’s easy to make a healthy kabob that your kids will actually enjoy eating.

Rather than following a strict recipe, I usually just set out all the food options (precooked if necessary) and let me kids go to town spearing their favorite foods. Here are my favorite kabob options.

  • Meat cut into bite sized pieces
    • Beef, chicken, or pork are the most common.
    • I have also cut up lunch meat into squares and allowed my kids to put that on their kabobs.
    • Another nontraditional option is Little Smokies or pieces of hot dogs.
    • Be sure to cook the meat beforehand to avoid kids touching raw meat or cross contaminating other foods.
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries
  • Melon pieces
    • Honeydew, watermelon, or cantaloupe
  • Cheese
    • My kids enjoy when I give them options in various kinds of cheese- such as swiss, mozzarella, or cheddar.
  • Nontraditional fruits- such as apples, orange slices, or chunks of pears- can also be added to kabobs. They are tasty and help kids eat a variety of foods.
  • Any vegetable that you can get away with. I try any and all new veggies that I can possibly skewer on a kabob. This is a great way to trick my kids into trying new foods because they are so excited that they get to spear the food. I’ve done onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, and cooked carrots.

When we make kabobs, I cut up all the ingredients, put each thing out on the table in a bowl, and allow the kids to choose what they want on their kabob. They love “spearing” the food onto a kabob stick.

Sometimes, my kids make crazy kabob creations that I wouldn’t necessarily want to try, but they are always very excited. They are more willing to try new things when we make kabobs.

4) Stir Fry or Fried Rice with Veggies

I use stir fry as my child’s first exposure to actual cooking! Here’s why stir fry is the perfect meal to cook when it’s your first time cooking:

  • No measuring ingredients, which means there is no messing up! Stir fry always turns out great (unless you burn it). This is a great confidence-builder for kids who are just learning the skill of cooking! 
  • The child can make it their own. There’s no right or wrong answer to which veggies or meats go into stir fry. This is a great time for creativity! 
  • There’s little technical skill. Just stir to avoid burning!
  • The heat doesn’t have to be turned up all the way. Keep the heat at medium. Even though it will take a little longer, it’s less likely for the child to get a burn. 
  • You can involve kids in a variety of ways.
    • Kids love to add ingredients into the sauté pan as you go.
    • If your child is old enough and responsible enough, you can let them help you cut the veggies or meat into bite sized pieces. If that’s not the case, you can do it before hand. No harm done!
    • If your kids are old enough and responsible enough, they might enjoy stirring the pan while the veggies cook.
    • If your child can handle it, this is a great recipe for him to try ALL on his own!

Ready for your recipe?

Stir Fry: 

First of all, the list of ingredients is optional. Here are some of my favorite options of ingredients to include in stir fry. Pick and choose your favorites!

  • Precooked Rice
  • Soy Sauce or a similar yummy sauce (I’ve substituted General Tsao’s sauce, Orange Chicken Sauce, Kung Pao Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce, etc.)
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Egg
  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chicken, Beef, or another favorite meat
  • Green Beans
  • Bok Choy
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Sesame Seeds

Cut up all the ingredients into bite sized pieces. My kids love to “measure” to see if the veggies are bite sized by eating a few.

In a large frying pan, cook your meat first.

When your meat is cooked, add any veggies you would like. Stir to avoid burning the food until the veggies are cooked.

Add in your sauce.

You can serve stir fry by itself, over rice, or you can easily make it into fried rice by adding the rice into the sauté pan of veggies and cooking it with an egg.

5) Homemade Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? And making it yourself only adds to the fun!

Pizza teaches kids baking skills (which are VERY different from stove top cooking skills) such as:

  • How leavening agents make dough rise,
  • How the cooking process can transform dough into bread (there’s nothing like this when you’re making stir fry!) 
  • Measuring carefully to ensure that the dough turns out right,
  • Rolling out dough,
  • Taking your time!
    • I like to buy premade pizza dough. This cuts down on the prep time and makes my life easier. Sorry kids, you’ll never be bakers. 🙂 

Lucky for me, pizza still teaches some other things too. For example:

  • Creativity
  • Food presentation
  • Spreading ingredients evenly throughout
  • Using an oven- how to set the temperature, preheat the oven, turn on the light to check the food, etc. 
  • How to check to see if food is done baking (golden brown crust, not doughy) 

Here’s your recipe!

Homemade Pizza: 

If you’re cool, use the recipe found here (Courtesy of Sugar Spun Run) to make homemade dough.

If you’re like me, buy some premade dough and skip ahead. 🙂

Canned Spaghetti or Pizza Sauce

Shredded Cheese

Whatever toppings sound yummy!

Spread the pizza dough into a large circle on a sheet tray. If you are making one large pizza, allow each child to decorate a portion of the pizza with toppings.

It can also be fun to make several smaller pizzas so that each child can have his or her own.

The kids can help spread sauce and cheese on the dough.

Offer the kids a variety of toppings to make their pizza unique. Allow them to get creative and make their pizza a piece of art.

Here are a few flavor combinations that can be tasty!

  • Traditional (Marinara sauce, mozzarella, pepperonis, sausage, onion, bell peppers, olives, etc.)
  • Barbeque (BBQ sauce, mozzarella, chicken, bacon, pineapple, onion, etc.)
  • Alfredo (Alfredo Sauce, mozzarella, chicken, bacon, onion, tomato, etc.)
  • Desert Pizza (Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, marshmallow cream, crushed cookies, crushed Oreos, pie fillings, etc.)

Bake according to the directions on the dough package. Usually 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

6) Fruit Salad

person holding sliced fruit salad on yellow bowl

Fruit Salad is a great way to let your kids practice using a knife by cutting soft fruit with a butter knife. The fruit pieces might not look pretty, but they will taste yummy. And your kid will learn a lot!

When I make fruit salad with my kids, I start by choosing which fruits they can cut themselves. Grapes, melons (after I remove the rind), and berries are easy for kids to cut with a butter knife.

I begin by removing the rind on any melons and then my kids cut the melon into pieces. They cut the grapes in half and strawberries into bite sized pieces.

As your child gets more skilled, allow him to experience more challenges- cutting more difficult fruits until he masters them all! 

That’s it! If you want a little extra pizzazz, you can serve your fruit salad out of a hollowed out watermelon rind. My kids get excited about that.

7) Fruit Pizza

Image result for fruit pizza

If fruit salad is too boring for you, put all those great knife skills to use on a fruit pizza!

  • Teach your kids to use a knife, using the same techniques described above. 
  • Teach creativity and self-expression. 
  • Teach presentation. 
  • Expose kids to unique foods, like kiwi, that they might not try otherwise. 
  • Spread icing using a butter knife.

There are really yummy recipes out there for fruit pizza made entirely from scratch.

However, when I’m cooking with my kids, simple is better.

Fruit Pizza: 

Premade Sugar Cookie Dough

Store Bought Cream Cheese Icing

Fruit

Help the kids roll the dough out into a pizza shape. Bake the cookie according to the directions on the package.

Once the cookie is cool, top the cookie with store-bought cream cheese icing. The kids love to spread the icing over the pizza.

The children can help me cut soft fruits, such as strawberries or kiwi, to put on top of the icing. Let them get creative and make a beautiful design of fruit.

Some of my favorite toppings for fruit pizza include: kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, almonds, peaches, grapes, mandarin oranges, and banana.

8) Quesadillas

Quesadillas are my favorite meal to teach kids to use cooking alternatives, like a griddle or a microwave. Of course, it’s excellent practice to learn to use a classic stove top as well! 
BLACK+DECKER Family-Sized Electric Griddle with Warming Tray & Drip Tray, GD2051B

  • Multiple cooking methods- griddle, stove top, or microwave! I often have conversations with my kids like this:  
    • How are various cooking methods alike? 
    • How are they different? 
    • Which one do you like best and why? 
    • What different circumstances might change your cooking method? (Example: If I’m in a hurry, a microwave is a great option!) 
  • If I’m teaching a child to cook who doesn’t want to sit and focus for very long, quesadillas can be a better option than stir fry. 
    • Active children can be more likely to be burned if they are fidgeting or playing around when they are supposed to be cooking. My favorite thing about quesadillas is that you can cook them over a low heat, reducing the risk that your child might burn themselves.

Quesadillas are simple, quick, and easy- which allows the kids to focus on the new skill of using a burner or griddle rather than on the preparation.

Quesadillas: 

Tortilla

Cheese

Nonstick Spray

Any desired add ins (Meat, veggies, salsa, etc.)

I begin by spraying a frying pan with a nonstick spray.

Before I turn the burner on, I place the tortilla in the pan and add cheese on one half. Fold the tortilla over to cover the cheese.

Then, turn the burner on low. Allow your child to flip the quesadilla when the first side is golden brown.

He/she can practice watching the food to avoid burning it, flipping the quesadilla, and using the stove top safely.

9) Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

I use this recipe to teach kids how to use a hand mixer in the kitchen- a very useful tool for lots of recipes.

Click the image below!

Hamilton Beach 62682RZ Hand Mixer with Snap-On Case, White

Here’s what you need:

2- 8oz packages of Cream Cheese

1 cup Powdered Sugar

Any fruit to dip, cut into bite sized pieces

The child begins by beating the cream cheese with the hand mixer for 3-5 minutes. It takes a long time to mix the cream cheese until there are no more lumps (more practice for the child!). You want your cream cheese to be smooth and creamy.

Add in the powdered sugar. Use the hand mixer to mix thoroughly.

Dip a variety of fruits in the fruit dip, including apples, bananas, grapes, berries, etc.

This recipe teaches kids to use the hand mixer without making a mess. I suggest mixing the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl to catch some of the mess.

If the child holds the hand mixer at an angle rather than straight up and down, the mixer will spray bits of cream cheese. Since you must mix the cream cheese for several minutes, the child gets lots of practice.

Do you have any favorite recipes to cook with your kids? Share them in the comments below so that we can all enjoy them!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

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Kids in the Kitchen- The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Your Kids

Kids In the Kitchen- The ULTIMATE Guide for Cooking with Your Kids

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Updated- 2/1/2019

 

I am a firm believer in cooking with your kids.

I find that it’s great parent-child quality time, it builds life skills that they will need as adults, and it is just plain fun! My kids remember the times we have spent in the kitchen together. My nieces and nephews talk about when we made brownies or cookies or homemade ice cream.

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

And cooking is something that you have to do every day anyways! It feels great to check something off of the to do list and still have quality time with your kids.

That being said, it takes some patience and practice to cook with kids around.

Here’s my top suggestions for having kids in the kitchen- without going crazy! Also read up on our favorite things to cook together!

1) Control the Chaos
blue jeans

The worst thing about cooking with kids is the mess. It is simply uncontrollable. If I’m going to allow my kids to help me cook, I’ve got to accept the fact that my kitchen is going to be messy.

That being said- I don’t have to let it turn into a disaster area.

How can we control the chaos?

Make it clear to the kids that cleaning is part of cooking. If they want to enjoy the fun, they’ve got to help with the cleanup as well. Kind of a Henny Penny lesson.

I also make sure that everyone helps clean up along the way in simple ways rather than cleaning up a big mess later. When I wait until the end, my kids are overwhelmed at the size and magnitude of the mess. There are more tantrums, more refusal, more arguing, and less work getting done.

It kind of ruins the fun of cooking.

But, if I make sure the cleanup is manageable for each child by giving them small and simple tasks along the way, they don’t seem to mind. Especially once they are in the habit of helping. Here’s some specific ideas:

  • Do you have a young child who wants to help but is too little for a lot of the actual cooking?? Ask her to get ingredients out and put them away again!
  • Take turns wiping the counter off (this happens many, many times!).
  • Throw away food packaging, egg shells, etc. immediately after use.
  • Put all dirty dishes straight into the sink or dishwasher.

In the end, I only have two jobs- sweep the floor and start the dishwasher. That’s it!

If I had older kids, I would probably get their help on those two things as well. My younger children enjoy using their child-sized brooms and mops to join mom in this part of the clean up (click the image below!).

Melissa & Doug 8600, Letss Play House! Dust! Sweep! Mop! Pretend Play Set, 6-Piece, Kid-Sized Housekeeping Broom, Mop, Duster, Multicolor, Standard

With a manageable mess, everyone (including me!) can enjoy the fun of cooking together.

Need some extra energy before cooking with your kids? Read here for some great energy boosting ideas! 

2) Let it Go

This step describes my mental state during cooking. The technical French phrase is “Mise en place”- which literally translated means “Everything in its place.”

avocado, tomatoes, eggs, mushrooms, spring onions, and leaves

Professional chefs use this term to describe both the physical state of the kitchen being clean and orderly as well as a mental state that the chef is in- a state of calm, control, and confidence. You reach this state by being prepared before you begin cooking.

When we apply the term “Mise en place” to cooking with kids, we have a whole new meaning.

For me, being prepared mentally before I begin cooking with my little ones makes all the difference in my level of patience throughout the cooking process.

If I expect a certain level of participation from my kids (but I don’t get it) or a certain result in what we are cooking (but I don’t get it) or active listening and responding from my kids (but I don’t get it)… I lose my patience and the experience is no fun for anyone.

(For some tips on communicating more effectively with your kids when things go wrong, read this post!)

Before I start, I remind myself that this will not go my way.

Period.

It just doesn’t happen.

  • Someone is going to get egg shells in the batter.
  • Someone is going to spill the milk.
  • Someone is going to have a different opinion on how to follow the recipe.

I can emotionally handle all of these things if I have prepared for these things beforehand.

My husband calls this my “thick skin”. If he reminds me before I do anything difficult to “put on thick skin”, I typically react better because I was prepared for it. If I go in with set expectations, I am easily frustrated when those expectations aren’t met.

So be ready for detours and variations in your plan.

assorted-color signage lot on road during daytime

3) Technique

And now, down to the nitty gritty! Here are my top techniques for cooking with kids. These limit the mess, waste of food, and frustration for everyone.

  • Be safe. Here’s how: 
    • Mom is in charge of using knives until children are older. When kids are old enough to use the knives, mom supervises.
    • Mom is in charge of any heat (oven, stove top, toaster, griddle, grill, etc.) until the kids are older. When they are old enough to try using these things, mom supervises.
    • Give warnings to each other before you walk behind another person. This keeps us from accidentally spilling or hurting each other with sharp objects or hot objects.
    • Mom uses the can opener until kids are older.
    • Kids are taught why each of these kitchen objects are not safe. They learn that although these things could hurt them, we can stay safe by using them properly. Kids are taught to use each object properly at an appropriate age.
  • Be healthy. Here’s how: 
    • Wash hands before and during cooking. Be especially careful to wash hands after handling raw meat.

person washing hands over sink

    • Avoid “cross contamination”. Be aware of what surfaces or utensils have touched raw meat and do not allow those things to touch other foods.
    • Be aware of how long cold foods have been left out of the fridge. Cold foods should not sit out on the counter for an extended period of time.
    • Heat foods thoroughly to avoid food borne illness.
    • Teach children about health hazards in the kitchen and how to be healthy in your cooking.
  • Break eggs into separate bowl rather than breaking eggs directly into the food you are cooking. If a child accidentally gets egg shells in the separate bowl, they are easy to scoop out with a spoon. If the child breaks the egg shells directly into the food you are cooking, they can get lost in the food.
  • Measure out things beforehand. The parent can be in charge of measuring each ingredient. Then the child can pour the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. This ensures that your food matches the recipe and will turn out great!
  • Pour liquids into a small cup or a liquid measuring cup. Avoid using a dry measuring cup for liquids as they are easy for a child to spill.

  • In all cooking skills, slowly increase child’s independence. Some things will be off limits at first, such as cutting food with a knife. Slowly teach your child how to use the knife safely. Start by allowing the child to watch you use the knife as you describe how you are being safe. Then, both the child and the parent hold the knife together to practice using a knife. Slowly help the child less and less until the child can cut food on his own under your supervision. Eventually, the child will be fully independent in using a knife. Make sure to be conscious of the child’s age and emotional standing when you consider teaching this skill.
  • Let kids choose foods to cook. This is a great way to get kids to try new foods. They are much more excited about things when they get to choose them and help make them. Take your child to the store and include him or her in the shopping, meal planning, cooking, and serving of the meal.
  • Give yourself extra time so that you can go slow. This avoids any extra headaches and allows children to learn at their own pace.

4) Teaching Moment

Never complete a task with your child without explaining what you are doing and why. 

Cooking is an important life skill that every person will use. When your child goes to college or moves into their first apartment, they will need to know how to prepare meals for themselves.

Every time you allow your child to participate in the kitchen, they are learning bits of new information that will benefit them later on in life. You can exponentially grow their learning by describing to your child what you are doing. Explain why. Explain how.

man holding incandescent bulb

Among the important skills they will learn are:

  • kitchen safety,
  • avoiding illness,
  • how to eat healthy,
  • how to use various kitchen appliances and utensils,
  • how to read and follow a recipe,
  • how to measure ingredients,
  • how to supplement ingredients when needed,
  • how to make basic staple food items,
  • And much more!

Don’t assume that your child will get all that information just from watching you.

Your words, example, and explanations increase their learning. Allowing the child to try what they have learned for themselves solidifies the knowledge in their minds, making it easier to recall down the road. Be ready to help when needed and correct mistakes in a kind way.

Not sure what to cook? Read more about child-friendly recipes or click the image below for a great child-centered cookbook!

Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book (Better Homes and Gardens Cooking)

Cooking with your kids in an intentional way to prepare your child for an independent life.

Have fun along the way. Enjoy the wonder and excitement that young children have by teaching them a new skill. They won’t be this small for long!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

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