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If you have ever spent time in the kitchen with little ones you know that there tends to be a lot of mess and very little in the way of an edible product. Most of us believe that the benefit of quality time spent together is the pay-off, but in reality there is much more that can be accomplished. Here are some tips for making your next multi-generational cooking venture a real learning experience.

1. Be realistic

If your grandchildren are aged three to five you will want to set them up for success by making most of the decisions yourself and choosing a quick and easy recipe. Pre-measuring ingredients and placing them in a line according to the directions makes the process a simple but rewarding experience. If the children are older you will choose recipes according to their experience and interest.

2. Create a relaxed atmosphere

Cooking is a bit like art, and it should be done in a relaxed setting that allows for a few spills, some creative flair and opportunities to express individuality. Don’t rush or stress; even a “mistake” can be redeemed most of the time. Have fun as you cook, and remember that the conversation taking place while in the process is part of the togetherness, and affords opportunity for learning and growth.

3. Don’t underestimate the things children can do

We often think that children can only watch adults cook and perhaps do a little stirring along the way. Here is a list of things children are able to do around the process of creating good food: They can help choose the recipe, gather utensils and ingredients, peel or mash veggies, crack eggs, stir, add ingredients, open cans, shape dough, arrange trays or plates of food, set the table, make centerpieces and help with clean-up. The more the children are able to do themselves, the greater their real learning.

4. Add a little drama

It is up to you to set the tone of the cooking adventure. Turn off the television, set up the kitchen as your activity point and get ready to create. Choose recipes that have some fun built into them such as animal shaped cookies or salads. Plan a meal to surprise a family member for a birthday or other celebration, add colorful aprons to wear during the process and take some pictures for the family albums.

5. Learning is fun

Cooking is a lifetime skill. While most people will not make their living in the kitchen, they will undoubtedly be grateful for learning the rudimentary skills of feeding themselves. There is math to be problem-solved in measurement, there are nutrition basics to learn, and there is a level of responsibility and a sense of accomplishment to enjoy when serving food to others.
What’s the point of cooking with children? It’s a great way to bond and share, a way to pass on family history and culture, a way to teach skills and train in responsibility. So get going Grandmas and Grandpas, there are plenty of good reasons to cook with kids.