Presented by IKEA

5 Rules That Help Make Cooking Fun For Kids (And Manageable For Parents)

Picture small children in a kitchen. If you’re a parent, your first reaction is likely to be ‘uh-oh’. There’s the danger they might hurt themselves, the likelihood of mess, the demands, the getting under your feet and interruptions, not to mention the ever-present threat dinner will be ruined.

People without children, on the other hand, probably had an idealised image of cute little cherubs wearing oversized chef hats with giant wooden spoons having a right old laugh over a bubbling saucepan. Parents, of course, know better. Or do they?

It’s time for parents to re-evaluate children’s place in the kitchen, says IKEA. Its Life At Home Report found that while nearly half of all parents interviewed feel guilty they lack the time to play with their children, the majority don’t think to make the time they spend preparing meals a fun way to bond instead of a necessary chore.

The report found that while nine out of 10 parents involve their children in the preparation and clearing up of food, the tasks handed to them are limited to gathering and cleaning. Activities that make children everywhere unanimously agree: ‘It sucks to be a kid in the kitchen’.

It’s not just about missing out on the fun aspect either. Most children lack basic food knowledge and cooking skills, simply because parents fear the mess and stress that comes from letting them into the kitchen, the report found.

To combat this, IKEA has been doing research into the things that would draw kids to the kitchen. And as you might expect from IKEA, they’ve put together a super easy guide on the subject that even a child can follow. The result is ‘Cooking With Parents’, a manifesto from children to parents. Designed to put the fun back into mealtimes and to get kids playing a starring role in the kitchen, these five rules are all you need to get the whole family cooking.

1. ‘Don’t Correct Me All The Time’

It’s not homework, strict rules are no fun, and no one gets inspired to try their hand at something new when there’s an expert criticising their every move. Show them how it’s done and explain why, but pitch your supervision level at helping build a lego set rather than maths teacher.

2. 'Don’t Get Mad If I Fail'

The child is in the kitchen for practice, not to deliver the perfect roast grandma is expecting on her visit. If kids make a mistake and sense disappointment, they’re less likely to want to give it another go. And let’s face it, we go to enough adult dinner parties where the stressed host cries into another glass of wine confessing to culinary disaster.

3. 'Don’t Rush Me'

Cooking may be all about timing, but it’s also to do with patience. Practice yours while they take their sweet old time over things you can do in seconds. Important thing is they’re into it. Plus dealing with things not going according to plan helps you become more adaptable in the kitchen, which in turn makes you a better cook.

4. 'What’s Wrong With Being Messy?'

Everything in its right place may be a fine mantra for keeping the kitchen in order, but you then run the risk of the children deciding the right place for them to be is in front of the Xbox. Accept there will be mess and see it as clear evidence that they’re enjoying mucking in.

5. 'It’s Okay To Get Tired Or Lose Interest'

Any parent who has spent ages planning a fun activity only for the child to want to do something else will tell you: it’s hard to not take the rejection personally. They’re not being ungrateful, they don’t resent you for suggesting they cook instead of watch TV, they’re just kids. They switch off. If you keep at it, encouraging them and thinking up fun things to make together, they’ll switch back on.

• What are you cooking with your kids? Let us know #CookingWithParents

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