Empowering Single and Divorced Parents: A Guide to Cooking with Kids

Navigating life as a single or divorced parent brings its unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to managing household duties and spending quality time with your children. Amidst the hustle of daily responsibilities, introducing your kids to the kitchen might seem daunting—with the chaos of knives, hot surfaces, and the need for constant supervision. Yet, with some pre-planning and the right approach, cooking together can transform from a stressful idea into an enjoyable experience, yielding delicious results and creating cherished moments. It’s an opportunity to teach valuable life skills, foster independence, and build a stronger bond with your child, turning meal preparation into an adventure rather than a chore.

1. Involve your children with food preparation while they are still little.

Establishing daily habits of performing and completing life chores in age appropriate doses, will involve your children in the fulfillment of their needs, fostering independence and keeping them out of trouble at the same time. Including your children in the tactile and magical experience of transforming ingredients into meals fuels creativity, and the opportunity to witness the fruits of labor. When trying to make a schedule, factor in more time than a recipe calls for, so you don’t feel pressured to complete it. Giving you and your child time to work through each step of making the meal will improve your results. You and your child will communicate more effectively and you will both learn more techniques and recipes over time.

2. Encourage family time and praise good work.

Eating meals together provides a little time of rest and enjoyment that everyone in the family can share. Teaching your children to show appreciation for their food, and the person who prepared the meal is just good manners. When they begin cooking, they in turn will be thanked and this will turn their pride into enthusiasm, further encouraging the little chef inside them.

3. Be aware of age-appropriate recipes and techniques.

Safety comes first, so think ahead and choose recipes that are practical to make with your child. This will reduce injuries, frustration and confusion. Don’t let these precautions limit your child’s growth though, gradually add in more opportunities to push past these limitations.

4. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Results will vary, but that’s ok. Each meal isn’t going to be a success, but overtime, more will be. Keep a backup ‘rescue’ meal on standby in case something goes awry. This will keep grumbly tummies from growling and will keep the mood light. Accomplished cooks might find imperfection hard to accommodate, and although you may know how to do something so that it looks better, if you complete the task for the child they will not learn how to do it, and it could squash their enthusiasm. The objective is to make little chefs not perfect eggs.

5. Keep it real.

Many kids’ cookbooks provide instructions on how to make ants on a log and similar (adorable) snacks. This is good for getting kids accustomed to the kitchen, but it shouldn’t stop there. Don’t be afraid to make meals with your children. This will make the distinction in their minds between: food is play and food is necessary, but fun! Make sure to develop a repertoire of recipes for different meals, not just dessert.

6. Make it tasty.

Make meals with your children that they will enjoy. This will increase your success rate all around. Involve your children in grocery shopping and meal planning. Including them, instead of just dragging them along will keep them focused and (better) behaved.

7. Develop a regular schedule.

Try not to fluctuate too much on the frequency that you cook together. Making a meal everyday of the week together for a couple of weeks and not at all other weeks will be disruptive. Try to be consistent and develop a regular cooking day.

8. Keep things in perspective.

While cooking on your own might seem quicker in the moment, it doesn’t develop skills in your child. At first things will go slowly, and it will be very messy, but these tender years don’t last forever, in fact they pass by too quickly. Take advantage of your time together and make meal time a special time.